This is a picture of my dad, Jim Wheaton. He’s been gone a long time now and I miss him. As a child, he was just “Jim” to me (He didn’t want my brother and me to call him, ‘Dad.”) Every year I appreciate more how unique he was and how much he taught me.
When he was 3 years old, he fell off a horse and broke his left arm in several places. Back then, doctors didn’t know how to set bones nearly as well as they do now. He ended up with a left arm much shorter than his right, and a hand that was basically useless. He endured bullying at school, but he overcame it using his wonderful sense of humor. He found that if he could make someone laugh, they looked at him differently. From the time I was old enough to understand, my dad was the role model for standing back and seeing the humor in things. This is one of my most important coping mechanisms. I used it only this morning, making my husband laugh TWICE while he was ranting about computers, cell phones, and other technical stuff not working the way they should. It dissolved his frustration enough we THINK we have the issue solved.
Instead of thinking of the things he couldn’t do because of his arm, my dad made sure that he did everything he could one-handed. In fact, he was SO good at it that many times I simply ‘forgot’ that he might have trouble with something. HE made us forget it, not using it as an excuse for not producing. I remember a family trip when we were walking along the sidewalk. There was a man sitting on the sidewalk. As we passed, he held up one arm – remarkably like my dad’s – and asked him for money. My dad stopped, showed him HIS arm, and said, “Get a job!”
Below is an example of two wooden dogs he carved – one-handed!
I also have three of his small oil paintings.
My dad used his talent and humor to provide for us as a family with his own advertising agency, doing radio commercials for clients. His style was so distinctive that his commercials are still played today – as kind of a tribute to his creativity and ingenuity. This URL still talks about my dad and some of his commercials (scroll down to Jim Wheaton box). He won a Silver Lifetime Addy Award for his unique contribution to advertising in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He taught me that sometimes you need to read between the lines if someone feels embarrassed to say personal things. For the same reason my dad felt uncomfortable being called, “Dad,” he felt embarrassed to show his emotions. When I was earning a Master’s Degree at the University of Tulsa, I had to make a presentation on advertising and how I would teach it to my students. I asked my dad to be a guest speaker. I finished my presentation, then amazed and delighted the class members by introducing my dad – who was well known enough to be a bit of a personality. When he finished a truly delightful talk, punctuated by a lot of laughing, he ended by saying something like, “I love it when I can talk to people about what I do. I particularly love it when I can tell you how proud I am of my daughter. She is Linda Wheaton Lewis.” surprising the whole class AND me.
I STILL tear up when I remember. When the class left, I finally allowed myself to break down. After I cried for a bit, I told my dad he had given me the very best moment of my life. He told me that he was sorry he hadn’t told me – and others – how he felt earlier. As I say – I STILL tear up.
My dad was a wonderful role model in so many ways. His example made me appreciate uniqueness, tenacity, a healthy sense of humor, and telling people how I feel. He is gone, but he lives in my heart. I love you, Jim.
HAPPY FATHERS DAY!