To the man who influenced me more than any other, besides the Savior!
My father is a humble man, who came from humble beginnings. He was born seventh of eleven children (eight of which survived), son of Joseph and Francis Mallek, Polish/American dairy farmers in central Wisconsin. Life wasn't easy, scratching out a living, working hard, but enjoying the fruits of labor, to the fullest. My father purchased the farm from my grandfather in the late fifties and that was the culture we were raised in. I'm the eldest of seven children and I've never regretted a single moment of the rich heritage I was raised in.
My father is a man who didn't expect anything less of others than he did from himself. He set high standards for himself and did his best to always live by them. To him, the word compromise didn't exist in his vocabulary. It was an amazing opportunity growing up and working next to a man of such strong convictions. That's one of the blessings of growing up on a farm. Each family member lives, works and spends every waking moment together, because the success of a family farm hinges upon the contributions of each individual. Working long hours together makes it easy to impart your work ethic to your children.
You always knew where he stood, because he didn't try to pander after the favor of others. You either liked him for who he was or not. It didn't seem to matter to him. He is far from perfect and he'd be the first to admit to that. What he did successfully was lead by setting a good example. He wasn't the kind of man who said, "do as I say and not as I do." If there ever was a man who could say, "watch me and do as I do," that would be my father. If he ever did something he wasn't particularly proud of, he'd be the first to admit, "we can learn from my mistakes and do better."
My father didn't always wear his emotions on his sleeve, but there were times when he was openly moved, showing that father's love. There were times during my teen years when I tried my best to buck the system and we didn't seem get along that well. There were also those times when I was helping him milk the cows and we were able to engage in some of the most profound discussions, during my entire childhood. I never truly understood the depth of a fathers love, until I held my newborn daughter in my arms for the first time. How could I be filled with such love for a little baby girl, I had just met.
The transition into fatherhood, for myself, was nothing short of an epiphany. Sometimes it's difficult for children to relate to their fathers. When a young man makes that transition, it suddenly becomes very clear. I owe a debt I could never repay, to a man I admire very much, my father.