The amount of love and respect I have for my father is no secret: Maj. Gene “Willy” Strahan Sr., is the reason I was able to dream big and work so hard to make those dreams come true. His guidance and wisdom is also why I’m able to raise four great, grounded kids. So, in honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, I wanted to take a moment to talk to my dad about his life, our family, and what this special day means to us both.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO CELEBRATE FATHER’S DAY?
Gene: I’m 81 years old, so I just want to lay low and chill out. All I want, God willing, is to make it another year.
Michael: I want some peace, quiet, and food. I want the kids to make me breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast, oatmeal. Sophie and Isabella (both 13) make really good omelets. Michael Jr and Tanita are out of the house so a call and I love you is perfect.
Gene: That does sound nice. I would like is to just sit down with everybody and eat and talk and laugh. That’s the whole reason why the holiday is important: togetherness.
WHAT’S ON YOUR FATHER’S DAY WISH LIST?
Gene: My son spoils me every day of the year, so I don’t need a single thing. And I’ve been on this earth for eight decades, so I’ve got a lot of stuff.
Michael: You don’t want anything?
Gene: Honestly, it’s hard to get all of the kids and grandkids together, but if we could do it, that’s what I’d want.
Michael: We do it for holidays like Christmas and thanksgiving and it is special to have everyone there!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST SPECIAL MEMORIES YOU’VE SHARED TOGETHER?
Gene: There are quite a few. We used to get up to all kinds of nonsense together. I was his father first, but we had a good time together, like buddies.
Michael: I always remember spending a lot of time with you, going on fishing trips, in the gym … you name it, we did it together. My memory growing up always had you around.
Gene: We’ve always had a good father-son relationship. Remember when we were stationed in Mannheim, Germany? We spent a lot of time together traveling through Spain and fishing.
Michael: We would hop in the camper and head off to Spain. It was incredible father/son time and I don’t know if I appreciated just how cool it was to spend that much time with you and how incredible it was to be fishing in Spain.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE YOUR FATHER’S DAY MEAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Gene: Oh, that’s easy: A good plate of seafood, homemade cornbread, succotash, and a big glass of sweet iced tea.
Michael: For me, it’s a bacon double cheeseburger, French fries, and an extra-large chocolate milkshake. La would kill me, but I could eat that all day long if it wasn’t so bad for me.
Gene: And cookies. I’m trying to cut back, but it’s hard to cut all the good stuff out.
WHAT DOES BEING A FATHER MEAN TO YOU?
Michael: My kids give me strength. I love being with them and having fun with them. To me, it’s all about family.
Gene: Louise and I have six kids. When Michael, who is the baby of the family, came along, I felt a little bit overwhelmed. I was stationed with the Army overseas, I was working, and going to night school. I just wanted to provide as much as I could for them, give them every opportunity.
Michael: You did. You worked hard for us every day … and loved us hard, too.
Gene: For my generation, the greatest part of being a father was giving your children a better life than you had. I came through in the days when they had the “Black/White” signs, and you couldn’t go to the front counters. You had to go into the back of the buses and things like that, even in uniform. But at the end of the day, God didn’t care what color you were, he was going to take care of you.
Michael: For me, the best part of being a father is the love. The love you give and the love you get. Loving something bigger and more important than yourself. I’m fortunate to have kids who love each other, too, and I love them right back. I’m a lucky man. So, thank you, Dad. I wouldn’t be the father I am if it wasn’t for you.