But, that’s just the thing – Daddy did.
Dad had other great ideas for his children as well. Bill, Joe and Mike tell stories of how he took his three oldest sons out for kicking practice back in the 1950s. Apparently, according to Dad’s careful research, kickers in pro football make a lot of money – yet they don’t risk as much injury as other players on the field. So off to the football field the foursome would go on random Sunday afternoons and kick and kick and kick to see if we had a star in the making.
And, speaking of foursomes, oh how Dad wished he’d had a pro-golfer in the family. The only slight flaw with that plan was that – despite his long career in the golf industry and his passion for the game – he was quite possibly the worst golf coach that ever lived. “Mmmmm Rotten” was his most often heard response when many a shot went awry. Or, brother David’s favorite, “You gotta hit it!” But, he absolutely loved playing the game anytime anywhere with his wife and his children. He was certain daughter Kathy was going to go straight to the LPGA, that is until she discovered boys. How delighted he was when she found her passion and career in the golf industry (and how delighted he would be today with her continued success).
Throughout his career, Dad worked with golf greats like Lee Trevino and others and he always made sure these noted men and women of talent met his kids. What I didn’t understand until much later in life was that this was Daddy’s way of showing everyone he worked with – no matter who they were or what their title – how proud he was of his family.
If Lee Trevino was in a golf tournament nearby he’d pack up the oldest boys to go meet him. “Lee, these are my boys,” he’d say, as if Lee Trevino was the lucky one fortunate enough to meet Bill Whitaker’s kids and not the other way around.
Once, when brother David and I were in high school, Dad had very senior businessmen and government dignitaries in the U.S. from Taiwan, and much to my mother’s disappointment, instead of taking them out to a restaurant, he insisted they come to our home for a family dinner. I was doing the “forced conversation thing” over appetizers, which I am sure I loathed at the time, when David came home from wrestling practice. Once Dad introduced David and said the word “wrestling”, our Taiwanese guests were enthralled, as they assumed David (who wrestled at a beefy 126 pounds that year) was some kind of Suma wrestler in training. Dad loved it and made David the center of attention for the entire evening. “Tell them more!” he said repeatedly throughout the night, as he beamed with pride. I am sure I was furious at the time – but looking back, Dad was just so happy to show off his kid - and I am sure there are numerous additional examples of the same type of misdiagnosed behavior.
What else do we know now that we didn’t know then? Well, we didn’t end up with any Whitakers in the NFL or playing on the pro golf tour and, sadly, I can’t speak a word of Mandarin Chinese. But I do know that I was blessed with a wonderful father who, while often quite strict and demanding, loved me, and all of his children, very much. And, that makes me a very lucky girl.
Happy Father’s Day, Bill Whitaker.