In one of his last days, a nurse at Florida Hospital told me she and her coworkers admired the “John Wayne kind of toughness” my father displayed during his fight to recover from multiple surgeries and procedures.
Yep, that was my dad … John Wayne tough – but he had a softer side, too.
Paul Weis was my role model. During my childhood, he taught me why I shouldn’t have everything I wanted, but at the same time he always gave me more than I needed.
He made me understand I should appreciate who I am and what I have.
In every life event – good or bad – dad was there to cheer me on and give me advice.
He made sure my siblings and I were at church every Sunday.
When I needed discipline, he wasn’t afraid to dish it out … but even during those times I knew I was cared for unconditionally.
I watched how he loved, interacted with and respected my mother … and how he did everything with her in mind. I got an up-close lesson on what a happy, healthy, thriving marriage should look like.
When I became an adult, I finally realized how truly fortunate I was to have him as my father. No matter how old I was, he was still my dad – ready to lend an ear and take part in my most memorable life moments.
It was only in the last year or so that I got to know some of the Paul Weis I’d barely been introduced to before. For many years, dad didn’t say much about being in World War II, and we just chalked it up to him not wanting to talk about it.
I’d seen his Purple Heart, his Bronze Star and several other medals and awards, so I knew he had to have been through some “stuff,” but he usually just kept everything to himself.
Then one day not so long ago, he told my wife, Christina, why he never talked much about his experiences in the war.
“I just didn’t think anybody was really that interested,” he said.
Not interested? Are you kidding me? That was all I needed to hear.
Through a series of question-and-answer sessions plus some digging through notes he’d jotted down over the years, dad and I were able to cobble together a short book detailing his own personal war story – something I’m very grateful to have been able to do.
He was about a year out of high school when he was drafted into the Army in 1942; and saw his first action in World War II in November 1944. He was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and was among the first soldiers to cross the Remagen Bridge. In between, he was wounded in combat and had shrapnel removed from his leg in a Belgian hospital. There’s that toughness again, even at a very young age. He was a hero in every sense of the word.
My father passed away yesterday. He was 89 and he lived a very good, long life.
I’ve always felt proud to be his son, but now I feel something new: the sobering reality (and the accompanying feeling of grief) that comes with realizing my role model is gone.
I suspect this feeling will never leave me, even though I know in my heart that he’s in a far better place today.
They say time heals all wounds … but “they” never met Paul Weis.
Though my father had been in the hospital since February 29, I was still learning from him even in his final days. He was amazingly brave even when he was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
That’s why anytime someone tells me I remind them of my dad I consider it an honor – and it’s what makes this attempt at a tribute to Paul Weis seem so woefully inadequate.
Despite his passing, the love, respect and admiration I feel for my dad will never go away. I miss him already.
But I was watching him and learning from him … and I was taking notes every step of the way.