Our youngest son, Stefan, comes over to our house usually once a week. Sometimes he comes because my wife and I need his help with something. I used to fix things at home, but since Karin and I became full-time caregivers for our toddler grandson, I never get around to repairing anything. The little boy, Asher, keeps us running. Stefan has an intuitive understanding of how things are supposed to work, so he can mend something far more efficiently than I could, even if I had the time to do so.
Stefan sometimes comes here to use his tools. Stefan is a journeyman in the Ironworkers Union, and he is a skilled welder. All of his personal welding equipment is in our garage, along with several massive tool chests, his air compressor, his grinder, and a plethora of things he needs for working on his pickup truck. He does carpentry projects while he’s here. He works on his motorcycle. He is busy when he visits with us.
Stefan sometimes stops by just to hang out with Asher. Stefan is the boy’s godfather, and he has taken a strong interest in the lad. He will look at Asher and smile. He greets him with a hearty, “Hey punk!”
Then he will pick up Asher, who squirms in his arms. Stefan says to him, “Remember that I’m tougher than you are… for now.”
Stefan likes to show Asher how to use tools. Asher has often been in the garage with Stefan, while Stefan works on a project. Asher adores his uncle.
Stefan speaks bluntly. When he talks with me, he pulls no punches. He is definitely not one to flatter others. He has no qualms about giving me shit about things. He can be sarcastic, and he has a cocky attitude. The f-word falls from lips quite often, and he keeps encouraging Asher to use it.
Stefan did not give me a card on Father’s Day. He has many talents, but he doesn’t like to write. It was a surprise to me when, a week after Father’s Day, he silently handed me an envelope with my name on it. He had also written “no response needed” on the envelope. I wondered what the hell this was all about.
I opened the envelope after Stefan went to work in the garage. There was a scrap of notebook paper inside of it. On the paper, he had scrawled a message. It read as follows:
Growing up I didn’t understand why sometimes you would be angry after work or easily set off. As I get older, I see so much of you in myself and understand the sacrifices and effort it took to provide for us…
This world is harsh and takes so much sometimes. There are days I would almost give in to the weight that “being a man” takes. But I don’t because I think about how you would do what it takes to push through and do what’s needed.
You created me and guided me to be the man I am becoming.
I AM grateful for that… and for everything else you’ve done for me as a great father.
I haven’t talked to Stefan about the note. No response needed.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.