On June 13, 2022, just six days before Father’s Day, my dad, Manuel L. Callahan, suddenly passed away. He was 77 years old.
I have read that the manifestation of a father’s love is the desire for his son to become a better man than his father. If that is so, how does one measure a man? Is it by the possessions he acquires? Perhaps is it the position he attains in business? Do we judge a man by the company he keeps, or his stature in the community? Does holding advance educational degrees make one man better than another?
My dad was born in Tarrant City, Alabama, just north of Birmingham. He had a G.E.D. and worked most of his life in the steel industry, until his company went bankrupt while he was in his 50s. My dad never failed to provide for my mom and myself. We always had a roof over our head, clothes on our bodies, and food to eat. I know there were times when money was tight, but he always found a way to make ends meet.
While providing for his family, my dad taught his son some valuable life lessons. My dad taught me to be thankful for what I had, because there were always others with less. One night, as our neighbor’s trailer went up in flames, I watched him open his wallet and give every dime he had to help that family.
Like most Southern men, my dad was a hunter, but his true love was bass fishing. I tagged along and it wasn’t long before every hunting or fishing trip became a competition. But what I didn’t realize until later was that my dad used these trips to talk about issues and things that I needed to know and understand to be a man. I learned many valuable life lessons sitting in the back of that bass boat.
Dad always spoke to me about God, or as he would say, “the man upstairs.” We would sit outside in the swing beside the house for hours where he talked about honoring the Lord, loving Jesus, and giving God’s share back to him and other life’s lessons. Dad told me to love and respect my mom because, “only your mama and Jesus will love you unconditionally.” Dad told me he would bail me out of jail, “just one time.” I never needed it.
When my son was born, my dad pulled me aside and told me not to raise my son the way he had raised me. “I had to be tough on you,” he said. “There was too much temptation where we lived, and I knew it wouldn’t take much for you to go down the wrong path. I had to be hard on you. I’m sorry.”
No apology was necessary.
I know my dad was proud of the things I accomplished and the man I am. If I didn’t know it before the funeral, I knew it afterward. Everyone came up and told me, “Michael, your daddy was so proud of you.” In my dad’s eyes, his son had become a better man than himself, and that was all he ever wanted.
So how does one measure a man? Perhaps the true measure of a man lies not in what he acquires, or accomplishes in life, but in how he raises and provides for his children, the impact those children have on the world, and how those children remember him after he is gone. By that measure, it’s hard to be a better man than Manuel Callahan.
For the last time…I love you dad.
Happy Father’s Day.