I have never really shared the story of Otto Morris Jr.
Like most kids born in the 1930s, he didn't grow up in a life of luxury. He had a roof over his head and food to eat, but there were no extras. He started working at a young age to help his mother support the family, so he had to become an adult way too early in life.
He wanted to play school sports but couldn't, and with his math, drawing and surveying skills, would have excelled in college, but it wasn't to be. He had too many responsibilities thrown at him, so after high school, he served his country in the Korean War, came home, got married and raised a family. He worked hard at General Electric, had a loving wife and a good life as an adult. He died four years ago at the age of 83.
My dad in many ways was a no-nonsense guy. He worked hard, so he expected his two kids to do the same. Sick days in our family were few and far between. He taught us a work ethic that my sister, Laura, and I still carry with us every day. He was strict, but loving. He never spanked us, never had to, and gave us a good life. I always say he was old school. Tough, to a point, but always had time for his kids. What his childhood lacked he made up for as a father. He and my mother always gave us their best.
One of the great memories I still carry with me daily is playing catch with my dad. Even after a hard day at work, he always had time to toss the ball with me in the back yard. I thought that was the neatest thing. I played ball with the neighborhood kids, but there was something special about showing off my fastball to my dad.
Besides learning right from wrong, and to show up at work each day even if you are not 100 percent, my dad also taught me to love the Cincinnati Reds at a young age. Because of him, I love all sports, and that love helped lead me to my first writing job at The Tribune.
The most important gift he gave me, though, was showing me how to be a father.
There are no classes you can take to teach you how to raise another human being. As most of you know, it's the toughest job you can have, being a parent, and really the only thing you have to lean on are your own experiences. Sure, there are books to read that give you tips, but nothing can prepare you for the ups and downs of raising children, in my case two daughters.
I always give most of the credit for their success as good, productive adults to their mother. Working at a community newspaper is not always conducive to having children. The hours are crazy and it can be time consuming. My wife spent more time with them than I did, especially during their younger years.
But surrounded by all girls, I learned quickly how to put hair in a pony tail, play girls' games, and how to check myself out at the grocery store when sent there to buy certain products. Well, I can't say I ever really learned how to put hair in a pony tail.
Girls have different problems growing up than boys. My friends and I would settle disputes by calling each other names, pushing each other around and, if neither worked, try to kill the guy in a game of sandlot football. But girls are different, and it's much harder for them growing up during those awkward years. Those years are also stressful on a dad, as well, who at times just doesn't get it.
But I always did my best.
I will never be Otto Morris Jr. He was special in many ways. I still ask myself at times "what would Dad do" or "how would Dad handle this." In my eyes, he could do no wrong. He could fix anything, cooked a mean chili, and always made Thanksgiving and Christmas special. Nothing replaces a father who is there every day, giving you all that he can. Children need their fathers!
So Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. To the majority of you, job well done and good luck. You have succeeded in the most difficult job there is, being a good dad. You did your best, and to prove it, you have happy, productive children who will never forget the sacrifices you have made along the way. They won't forget those family trips, weekend ballgames or playing catch with them in the back yard. Those memories are locked away forever.
There is no substitute for a good dad. I know because I had the best.
— Chris Morris is an assistant editor at the News and Tribune. Reach him at 812-206-2155 and firstname.lastname@example.org.