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06/14/2013 12:14 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2013

What Is the Manliest Thing You Have Seen Somebody Do?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Brian Browne Walker,

Serve, soften, and endure.

I have known some good, strong, capable men. It took me a few decades to realize that the very best one I've ever known was my own dad.

My father is what is known as "a stand-up guy." I've never seen him tell a lie -- not because I couldn't detect it, but because he just doesn't do it. I know of just one that he told, a long time ago, when he was 17 -- he told the U.S. government that he was 18, so that he could fight for his country.

This he did ably, through two wars, but like most people who've known combat for years, he had some healing to do when he came home. That didn't happen overnight. My mom says he was a little twitchy when he returned from Korea, waking up with shouts, sleeping with a gun nearby.

By the time my sisters and I appeared, though, he had softened himself enough that he was invariably kind to us, to our friends, to his crazy in-laws, to everyone else he encountered. He turned himself into a reliably sweet fellow.

My father lost his first son, my older brother, at birth, something that would embitter many people. He endured that and a great deal more, including a thousand indignities imposed by me under the influence of testosterone, horsepower, and stupidity.

Now, in old age, he endures spending a third of his time getting skin cancers carved off:

And another third is spent getting cornea transplants. He's had seven in one eye:

I get grumpy when I have a cold. He just keeps walking, just keeps softening --

and just keeps enduring. He is one of the most quietly hilarious people I've ever known, even in dark hours. Until he was 83, he was the oldest living professional airshow pilot in the country, something he loved doing, something he was extremely good at:

(He designed that paint job, too. Beautiful, isn't it?!)

Then they saw a little blip in his EKG and discovered that his aorta was 100% occluded, and that the capillaries in his heart had wrapped around it, like morning glories around a redwood tree, to carry blood past the blockage. They don't let you fly low and fast over a bunch of people in that state, and they won't crack your chest open at that age, either.

I was there on the day he sold an airplane he flew every day, maintained every inch of, recovered, put new engines in, for twenty years:

I thought he'd be dead in a year, but that was over five years ago. He hasn't been sitting around complaining either. He never does that. He's been loving my mom and mowing the yard and cleaning the house and vacuuming the pool and having breakfast with his buddies and helping folks out, me included, maybe me most of all.

Service, softening, endurance. That's what you get from my father.

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