The two of us know we wouldn't be here, doing this, working with all of you in the Suffer Better community, without the influences of our respective fathers. We owe them.
I count myself lucky: my dad and I got along pretty damn well, most of the time. He’s gone now, but nowhere near forgotten. I talk to him all the time, just as if he were still there, in the seat next to me, on the trail ahead of me, across the table at dinner. He doesn’t answer, and I don’t know if he hears me. Doesn’t matter, I’m not looking for that. I just enjoy keeping him in the loop.
Relationships are never simple and rarely smooth, and ours was no different. Raised in the 60’s, my dad and I together confronted all kinds of things – hair, drugs (pot wasn’t legal then, even here in CO), civil rights, the war, yes that war. We both won and lost our battles here and there, but managed to come through it all loving one another. He taught me the strength and beauty of family and community, and what it meant to be a good dad, a good husband, a good brother.
I never told him thank you enough. He believed in me and supported me, almost no matter what. Almost. When three of us bought a piece of shit VW bus and drove to Mexico after high school for 3 months, he shook his a little, but loved that we were off on this grand adventure. We made it back – older and perhaps wiser. He took me to check out colleges and we hung out in some pretty shady bars, drinking beer and playing pool, and talking about the places we’d visited. When I joined the Peace Corps he quietly told me how envious he was – I wrote him every week for nearly 3 years – there was no internet then. He saved every single letter.
He taught me to love and appreciate being outdoors, sleeping under stars, hanging out in camp with great friends and a shared love of fishing and one another. And yes, he taught me to swear and drink, though I think I started that before he was really ready. My brothers and I follow that camping/fishing tradition and do the same with our boys, now young men. He loved that I ran and even came to “watch” a few ultras, probably the least spectator-friendly sport on the planet. But he loved it. And I loved that I made him proud.
I wouldn’t be where I am or what I am without what he gave me – the good and the not so good. I learned from him. That’s why I talk to him. And it’s why I miss him. Thanks, pop.
The other take.
It was a surreal, painful experience to introduce yourself while speaking at your own Father’s funeral. It was as though I was attending a stranger’s funeral. Although I have very fond memories of my father as a child, Dad and I grew apart as I entered my adolescent and teen years. There was no “falling-out” per se but we simply drifted apart as my parent’s divorced, I attended boarding school out-of-state and eventually college. In hindsight, it was either I couldn't deal with the realities of dysfunctional home life (not the picture perfect family we all envision) or simply used the distance to allow things to be out of sight and out of mind – or both that allowed the drift to occur.
Although my Father and I spent only a few hours together in the last 10-15 years of his life, he was more influential in my life than one could imagine. I remember him as the strong silent type. He wasn’t a man of many words but his words were powerful, meaningful and impactful. His stoic, intense exterior gave way to a goofy, playful inside that only those closest to him would ever get a glimpse of. He had an extremely strong work ethic, cared deeply for his family and friends and made a difference in his community from behind the scenes.
Since the day I received the call from my brother that “Dad died” I ask myself why I we didn’t have a closer relationship. Why in the hell didn’t I take advantage of having a father in my life, something that many in this world don’t have?
As I grow older I’m finding that past feelings of anger and deep regret are giving way to excitement and passion for being the best father I can be. Present and active in my daughter’s life –today and for as long as I walk this earth. I’m lucky and I hope my daughter feels the same way.
Happy Father's Day. Call your Dad. Don't wait.