Chad Tucker: Lessons from my fathers

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Editor’s note: Chad Tucker is a native of King, North Carolina. Chad’s father Mark Joyce was a native of King; his stepfather Richard Bulla was a native of Asheboro, North Carolina. Both men lived in King at the time of their deaths.

Father’s Day has always been a difficult day for me. My father, who lived in King, died in a car accident two days before Christmas in 1976. He was driving to work when he crossed the center line in a curve, hitting his aunt and her children, who just happened to be traveling in the opposite direction. My father was 20 years old and I was 7 months old. Growing up, I only knew of my father from the stories my family told. Years later, my mother married my stepfather, also from King, who I called Dad. He was the only dad I knew.

My stepfather raised me as his own, teaching me all the things a boy loves, like how to fish and play ball. More important, he taught me life lessons on kindness, giving and hope. He did not teach me these lessons with words but with actions.

As an auto mechanic who worked daily with his hands, my stepfather built his own business and gave back to our community. When school groups or little-league teams needed funding or sponsorships, he supported them. When a team couldn’t afford its jerseys, he bought them ― which taught my half-brother and me a lesson in generosity. Just before Christmas each year he would give my half-brother and me $100 each to buy toys. We had a blast buying toys that were not for us, but for the foster kids in our community. Those toys taught me the lesson of giving. One spring, I remember my stepfather, a gentle giant, fostering bunnies after their mother was killed in the road. I learned a lot about responsibility from helping take care of those bunnies. Though many view it as dangerous today, my stepfather stopped to help people stranded on the side of the road ― every time. He never ignored beggars on the street, giving to them ― every time. He never worried about the dangers of stopping to help or giving to someone in need ― he always said the odds are greater that they’re hurting. Those actions taught me kindness.

My stepfather began hurting in the late 1980s. Constant headaches revealed to doctors a malignant brain tumor. Multiple surgeries and radiation treatments would only extend his life, not save it. In the shadows of a dark reality, with his faith he remained strong. That taught me the lesson of hope. He never flinched in those shadows and lived each day to the fullest. He smiled, even with pain, which taught me the lesson of perseverance.

On a cold January morning in 1991, snow was predicted. School was canceled in anticipation of a winter storm. My mom, my half-brother and I stood quietly around my stepfather’s bed as he passed away next to a window filled with cloudy skies in our home. The moment he left was peaceful, much like the life he lived.

On this Father’s Day I look back at the lessons of my fathers, lessons I learned at an early age. The tragedy of my birth father’s death taught me to appreciate life. My stepfather’s life and extended illness taught me how to live.

We cannot predict the outcome of each hour of each day. But every moment we are given is another opportunity for us to give, show kindness, share hope and live with perseverance. These are simple ways we can help each other on this short journey of life.

Predictions are lessons in themselves – not one snowflake fell that cold January day.