Dedicated to Howard N. Owen, b. February 23, 1929 d. April 6, 2004
My father was a very special man who enriched my life and my very soul with his strength and wisdom. I am who I am today, not just because he gave me life, but because he gave to me and everyone that he met, his heart.
He lived a full and fruitful life. He passed away on April 6, 2004, after a long and difficult battle with cancer. His spirit remained strong through it all. Though I miss him, I can still hear his wisdom and laughter from time to time. His song of life echoes in me.
What makes a person, a good person?
What makes a father, a good father?
My father was neither of these in my earlier years. He was a practicing alcoholic. Our home; where we lived and how we lived, was more a battlefield than a home. Insanity reigned. Fear, insecurity, hunger, the pain of abuse and neglect; these were my constant companions. I didn’t know him as other than the man who came around bellowing and fighting with my mother. This was my dad and life was a nightmare for a young child in a family of 6 children living in a dangerous ghetto.
This is not how the tale ends for this is the story of a man who turned his whole life around with love and courage. He was made to look in the mirror and see what he had become; to see the harm he had done to himself and to all those around him… particularly his family. He was given a second chance and he took it. He never picked up another drink. Yes, miracles do happen but once they do, you must work to keep what has been given. Understanding this, he continued to work hard all of his life to make good of it. The necessary changes did not happen overnight. They required serious efforts in the process to achieve growth and recovery. Through many years of hard effort with persistence, courage, and faith, he gained sanity, serenity, and wisdom. He became and remained a valuable person to society, a fine example for others to follow, and he was always humble in his service. To my pleasure and benefit, he also became a very loving and giving father.
What did he give to society?
The success of a man is not measured by what he has in possessions as much as it is by what he has within himself and what he does with that. My father worked very hard to overcome the debts he had incurred due to his disease. Not just the poverty it had caused but more importantly, the deficit of his ability to be of any good to anyone. He learned to share his experience, strength, and hope with others. He became very active in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and extended his hand and voice to all in need. He served the community as a member of the Lion’s Club in later years, giving of his time and efforts to aide in every way that he could. This man who once would not step foot in a church for fear of a punishing God, became active in his congregation and was a member to be counted upon. His fine tenor voice could be heard in the choir. His welcoming hands were always there and ready to be of service. He became a deacon and through that, he began his studies to become a minister. He achieved this goal too. His strong, resonant voice was a pleasure to hear and his messages would lift our hearts and minds. My father was indeed a successful and wonderful man. I am very proud of him.
What did he give to me?
My father never ceased to do all that he could to become and remain a good father and a good man. After the nightmare of my beginning years of life, there were still times of pain and conflict as his defects of character were being overcome and shaped into that of a man of worth. We all weathered the storms together. In time, an incredibly loving, giving, and wise man emerged from the wreckage of alcoholism as my father progressed in his recovery. That of himself which he began to give increasingly to the community, was multiplied all the greater at home. Everyone benefited from his loving heart, strong mind, and responsible sense of purpose. I learned to develop the same personality traits through his strong examples of how, and at times, how not, to be. Through his guidance as my father and my own life experiences, I have received and developed these lessons: courage and hope against even the darkest of nights; faith that we are not alone, that there is a higher power whom I choose to call God, who is always with me and for me; the tenacity to persist against all odds with gratitude and a positive nature; tolerance, compassion, and the ability to forgive others and self; sanity and serenity, though this is at times elusive according to my choices, not my circumstances; wisdom to know and to put into practice what I’ve learned; and above all, within all…the need to love self and others. Overall… he taught me to live life on life’s terms and to be present in the day. I do not do all of this perfectly all of the time but through him I learned a better way, a good way, to live life. He helped to equip me with the greatest tools to do and be the best I can on this earth and to do so for the joy of it all, as he did! I can and do truly smile, even when tears fall. I know that the greater good is always there because of his example. My father taught me well and gave me love.
By definition, my father was a successful man and a great father. I thank you Dad!
Picture – My father and I, Dec. 2002