Today would’ve been my dad Mike’s 66th birthday.
He grew up old-school in Southeast Kentucky (Appalachia). As a kid he had a paper route. He and his younger brother would ride together on an old banana seat bicycle to deliver the morning news. In high school he worked at the neighborhood grocery store, and was making almost as much as his teachers. He learned to weld in shop class and began working in the coal mining business after high school.
He was that dad that always told you he loved you, and he always gave 110%. My brother and I would have new clothes while Dad would walk around in the same shirt, with holes in it. If you looked at him you would’ve probably thought he works an awful lot and doesn’t have much. But he was happy and we never heard him complain.
Dad loved UK (University of Kentucky) sports and passed that on to my brother and me. He also enjoyed pick-up basketball, front yard football games, and farming. Farming was Dad’s way of working when he wasn’t at work.
In 2010, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. Going from working usually 80 hrs a week in a coal production plant to a sedentary lifestyle was the toughest thing for Dad. Even after brain surgery and seizures, he yearned to drive his ole beater Chevy back to the Harlan mines.
He was in physical therapy, but thought walking his steep driveway on a daily basis would show the doctors who was boss. Dad fought cancer valiantly before he passed away almost 7 months later. We buried him in a royal blue UK casket.
Shortly before he passed I had a friend who’d recently lost his dad sit me down for a talk. He explained I needed to tell my dad how I felt before it was too late. I won’t tell you what I said, but it was the hardest yet most satisfying conversation of my life. We both cried like little kids. If you have a close family member who is in the same situation, I recommend you have the same talk. It brought me immense closure.
If you were to ask my brother and me what we want to be remembered as, I’m sure we would both say we want to be great dads like our dad.
– Justin Yeary
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