Portrait of a great father 

Thanks, Dad, for everything

On Friday, my father, Bob Hammer, will celebrate his 74th birthday. I’ve been lucky enough to speak with and meet many of my heroes — James Brown, Bill Clinton, John Updike and the singer Wudearnt, just to name a few — but none of these legends is as big a hero to me as my father. I know it sounds corny, but it’s the truth.

I suppose nearly everyone would list his or her father as a hero, but Bob Hammer is the most honorable, honest and generous man I have ever known.

He’s stood by me through good times. And he’s standing by me as I struggle with the worst 18 months of my life. When I was a big shot newspaper writer, he was proud of me. And now that I’m an unemployed semi-vagrant struggling to keep my electricity on, he’s still proud of me.

You’d have to know my dad to appreciate his sense of humor. He lives to make people laugh and to see them happy, even at his own expense. Unlike my brand of comedy, my dad’s is gentle and compassionate. He never has a negative word to say about anyone, except President Bush.

For more than 40 years, he was a loving husband to my mom. He took care of her after a stroke left her crippled and barely able to speak. He suffered greatly when she passed away in 1999 but he remained strong.

A few years later, he met a very wonderful lady and the two of them now live happily outside San Francisco, where he gets to do the things he’s always wanted to do — see the ocean, visit the area’s great musicians and travel the country. Nobody deserves happiness more than my dad and I’m so glad he has it.

He worked for 33 years for a publishing company at 10th and Meridian. Those SOBs laid him off just shy of his retirement age but he took it in stride. Nobody is better at overcoming adversity than my dad.

Whenever he’s encountered people in need, he helps them out, even if they don’t deserve it. He’s been cheated by some unscrupulous individuals but that hasn’t stopped his generosity. He still believes that people are basically good, something about which I’m unsure at times.

If I ever have kids, I hope I’m as good a father to them as mine was to me. My childhood memories are full of trips to Pacers games at the Coliseum, watching Hank Aaron hit a home run against the Reds in Cincinnati and his buying me boxes and boxes of books.

Almost all of my positive qualities can be attributed to him and none of my negative traits are his fault. His soul is so full of love and kindness that it shines when he enters a room.

Long ago, when I was very ill, he took me to the hospital and waited with me. When I was released, he helped me recover and to thrive again. I could live a thousand lifetimes and never be able to repay him for what he’s done for me.

He’s the kind of person who is instinctively trusted by all animals he encounters. I’ve only known a few people like that and they’ve all been amazingly kind. They sense his kindness and warm to him immediately.

Dogs and cats that are hostile to everyone will approach my dad with love. I think that says something about his personality. He can be trusted.

He served honorably in the Navy in the 1950s. He’s never broken a law, to my knowledge. His love of life has helped countless people through the years. If more people were like Bob Hammer, the world would be a gentler place and everyone would be laughing.

I realize that some who read this column for its sarcastic humor and wacky worldview may be put off by all this talk of love and compassion. To them, I respectfully say, Fuck you. I am a better person because of this man and there is no way I can adequately express my admiration for him.

Happy birthday, Dad. I’m sorry for all the times I’ve disappointed you, but I hope you know that I appreciate and respect everything you’ve ever done. God bless you, noble sir, and may the road rise with you. 

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