Daddy, Daddy I’m Doing OK

I took my first CPR course as a young adult, as required by my employer. I had taken an entry level job as a residential manager (houseparent), working with handicapped adults in a small group home setting. I was being trained in case I faced an emergency on the job. We learned that CPR was potentially dangerous, and we should never apply CPR to an individual who did not need it. We were taught to ask, "Annie, Annie, are you OK?" I never expected that I would have the opportunity to use CPR; I certainly never imagined that "Annie" would have the face of my dad.

I was living on the job for eight days, on duty, then living with my parents for six days, off duty. I returned to my parents’ home one evening after an energetic and invigorating marathon of volleyball, shortly after midnight. My parents had fallen asleep in front of the television, and my entry to the house woke them up. They prepared for bed, except my dad only made it half way up the stairs. I heard the thump when he fell, though he did not actually fall down the stairs. He simply collapsed to an awkward prone position.

It was the day I became an adult, the day I took over and told my mother what to do. I carried my dad down and laid him on the floor. I shook him gently and uttered those words, "Daddy, daddy, are you OK?" There was no response. I searched for a pulse at the carotid artery, but could fine none. During the chest compressions I told my mother what to do, starting with the call to 911. As it turned out, however, my father had suffered a massive heart attack. The CPR, though ineffective, was my last gift to him, my last expression of love. About an hour later, in the ER, our family doctor came out and said there was nothing he could do.

Dad was a World War II veteran. He was in the Army Air Corps, and was on the ground supporting the efforts in the Battle of the Bulge. He had been reassigned to the Pacific front after V-E Day, but the war in Asia ended before his unit was transferred. He returned to his factory job after the war, where he punched the clock for 35 years. Outside my parents’ first home, they had used an outhouse. Several years before my birth, they purchased an old farmhouse. One of the first improvements was to change the pantry into an indoor toilet.

Throughout most of my childhood years we heated exclusively with a coal furnace. Dad would get up early and stoke the fire, but when we arose to get ready for school, the house was still chilly. I never actually knew how cold it was when he got up at 5:00 a.m.

Dad served our church for several decades as church treasurer. In this role, he taught me the importance of honesty, integrity, transparency, and reliability. During my teen years, he allowed me to help him prepare the monthly, quarterly, and annual reports. From that experience, I developed a love of bookkeeping, and it soon became my avocation. I volunteer today as treasurer in my church.

The skills of being a church treasurer today involve electronic spreadsheets, online tax submission, and a myriad of laws and regulations much more complicated than Dad ever dealt with in his days as church treasurer. However, the importance of honesty, integrity, transparency, and reliability are still requirements for the job. Dad, I thank you for modeling those traits.

My education and occupation are entirely different from those of my Dad, but in my avocation, I have always considered that,

"My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy
To the leader of the band" (Dan Fogelberg).

My life provides symphonies and cacophonies every day, but Dad, you will always be the leader of my band. Also, I want you to know, "Daddy, Daddy, I’m doing OK."

–Dr. Gary L. Welton is assistant dean for institutional assessment, professor of psychology at Grove City College, and a contributor to The Center for Vision & Values. He is a recipient of a major research grant from the Templeton Foundation to investigate positive youth development.