His name was Francis Ware Wright Jr., but he was better known as “Caesar.”
He was my dad.
There’s a great story of how he became known as “Caesar.” As legend has it, when he and his family moved to Uniontown, Pennsylvania, when he was a boy, his mother told stories about Julius Caesar. He hated the name Francis and so, when he arrived in Uniontown and the local kids asked his name, he said…
… “Just call me Caesar!”
I love that story!
Honestly, the relationship with my dad was far from ideal, and it was complicated. I’ve heard it said that a child’s wellbeing is determined by the relationship he had as a child with his father and can also determine how they view God, as Father.
I found this to be true in my life.
I was hurt by my father, although I can now see that it was really no fault of his own. He was just trying to deal with struggles in life, and I just happened to be an easy target for his disappointment and frustration.
I’m not condoning his actions and the emotional destruction he inflicted on me, but I can absolutely understand it.
I do remember the look of disgust in my dad’s eyes as he looked at me. I remember when he’d say that I was “nothing but a snotty-nosed brat.” I remember how much he loved my mother and how he would say to me, “You’ll never be anything as wonderful as your mother.”
But, I also remember two instances when he demonstrated his love for me.
I brought a boyfriend home from college one weekend. This boy had the audacity to come to my home and then proceed to ditch me the first night to go out and party with my brother, leaving me home alone.
Dad didn’t like that. Not one bit. The next morning, my dad said … “Good morning (to the boy). When are you leaving?” It probably was the only time I saw my dad stick up for me, and I’m grateful for the incident.
The other compliment I recall is when I was 29-years-old and he said to me, ‘You are such a beautiful woman, Pam. But, you know, it’s all downhill from here — a woman over the age of 30 is done.” I can actually laugh at that one now.
My dad didn’t have an easy life. His mother died of ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and from what I understand, it was an awful way to die. His first wife, the momma of my older, half-brothers, died suddenly of a heart attack at a very young age, leaving him to take care of the three boys. It destroyed him.
And alcohol was all that could console him. I know little of the years that followed, but I know that life was not easy for my half-brothers and sister, or for me and my little brother, once we came into the family. It got really messy.
Eventually, he stopped drinking. But, he was not happy. He hurt. He lost his job, He tried to begin again, while my mom found herself in the workforce for the first time to support the family as a reporter for a newspaper. It was uncommon for the mom in the family to be the sole breadwinner in the early 70s.
It wasn’t easy. We moved from a very large home, complete with a family membership at an exclusive country club, into a tiny apartment.
It was only natural for a proud man like my dad to react with shame and hurt, lashing out at those closest to him as he contemplated his failures. It hurts me to think about how he must have felt.
However, I’ve been affected by this past. My non-existent self-esteem filtered into many of my own relationships and more importantly, into how I viewed God. I spent much time trying to reconcile my understanding of a father here on Earth with what I was being told about my Heavenly Father.
There were trust issues, to say the least.
Thankfully, God has been very good in reconciling the dichotomy of my viewpoint on “father.”
Today, I look at the photo of my Dad pictured with his best lifelong friend, Bill Hoyer, and my heart just melts. He was a man who loved his family, he loved fishing and he loved THE Ohio State Buckeyes.
My dad was a sentimental man. I remember how he would start piling up the fishing equipment to go up to Lake Erie, where we had a cottage each summer. That was our only vacation of the year. And, even though I have traveled the globe, I still long for the rocky shores of Lake Erie. Dad couldn’t wait to get there, and we’d hear stories of how he and Mr. Hoyer would catch bass after bass as young men.
He taught me how to rig a rod, catch a fish, clean a fish — appreciate nature.
And he loved the OSU — he loved everything about OSU and football. He loved Woody Hayes, met Olympic track legend, Jesse Owens, while they were both students in the 1930s, rarely missed an OSU home game and always carried a buckeye in his pocket. From this, he taught me about loyalty and instilled in me my own great love of sports.
I still love the lulling sound of sports on TV as I fall asleep. That may sound like an odd statement, but my mom worked most nights at the Cincinnati Enquirer and my dad always had sports on TV as my brother and I fell asleep each night. The sound of a sports commentator calling a game is still very soothing — a sort of lullaby for me.
Every Christmas, he would tear up watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey runs back home after his own life crisis, realizing how much he loves and is loved. I think my dad could really relate to George Bailey.
For so many years, I blamed him for my own struggles. All I could see was the mean man who constantly put me down and made me feel worthless. I was wrong to see him through that filter and I wasted a lot of time being angry with him.
More recently, God equipped me with a filter of His love for people, along with the ability to see when people are hurting and lashing out because of pain. I saw it so often as a teacher of teenagers. If I had a student acting up, I could almost always bet there were problems going on at home or in some part of their lives.
I’ve been blessed with the ability to see my dad through God’s eyes, too, and I love him, I care for him and I wish he could have been happier in his life. I’m so much like my dad, and I love what he loved — fishing, sports, family, music, water — and God.
He didn’t have a very close relationship with God, which is why I believe he was so cantankerous most of the time, but he knew God and I know God loves him.
Dad once said that the reason he loved fishing so much is because it was the time when he felt closest to God.
He’s gone now. He’s been gone a long time, and I wish he was still here so I could talk to him about all these things and really hear about the frustrations and disappointments that ate at his soul while he was alive. I want him to know I understand.
I’d bet he knows.
He was a good man — just a little lost and scared. I miss the man who once said … “Just call me Caesar!”