Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would’ve been 72. Dad’s been gone almost 16 years already. Cancer.
So on this day, I thought it appropriate to remember him here. There are lots of great, funny stories I can tell. We laughed a lot together.
Looking back, I think I classify my relationship with my Dad in three phases.
First was purely as THE TEACHER. This period ran from birth until I was 14. Dad was a teacher and he taught me lots of things throughout my life. While lots of life lessons were taught, I also fondly recall him teaching me to ride my bike, to play tennis, and to play the basketball game HORSE out on the driveway.
Second stage was as ONE OF THE GUYS. I have two brothers, one older, one younger. During the summer of 1980, the four “men” of the family traveled cross country and back by car for 7 weeks. Mom’s job only let her take 2 weeks of vacation so she flew out and met us mid-trip for that period. During that trip, a father and his 3 pubescent boys became FRIENDS. I’m not saying we didn’t have a good relationship with him during THE TEACHER years, it’s just that we had never spent 24/7 with each other for that long ever before (or ever since). It was an adventure – and rather than feeling he needed to “mature” us during that trip, Dad allowed himself (and us) to just be guys. There were baseball games, whitewater rafting trips and fart jokes. We talked, sang, argued and laughed. It was an amazing time and it changed our relationship with my Dad forever.
The third stage was as a PEER. Unfortunately, just as we were getting started with this stage, Dad’s illness went into overdrive. I graduated college and for the first time in my life, had a full time job, responsibilities. My conversations with Dad were changing. We were exploring and feeling out the new phase of our relationship as two adults. We talked about life, about the future (mostly mine). It was an exciting time for me and this new phase promised to be very rich. Dad’s death unfortunately cut this phase short and I often wonder today if he were still around how he would react to things, situations and people in my life.
While I’ve always enjoyed writing, which was encouraged by both my parents since I was little, I attribute Dad with turning me on to reading more mature books. While I read lots as a younger kid, I wasn’t reading many non-school mandated books as a young adult. Dad was a voracious reader. He had a book with him wherever he went. In the evenings when he was home, we’d often find him in the living room sipping a scotch and pouring through his latest novel. Dad even took a year’s sabbatical from teaching to try his hand at writing a novel.
When I was in 7th grade I think, Dad handed me “The Dead Zone” by Stephen King.
“Read it”, he said, “I think you’ll like it.”
Dubious, I took it anyway and gave it a shot. It changed what I thought about books. To this day I’ve read virtually everything King has written. I found lots of other favorite authors along the way as well.
When Dad died, we found he had been in the middle of Stephen King’s “The Dark Half”. The bookmark was still in the book. I took that one and read it but always left the bookmark in Dad’s spot. It wasn’t until years later during one of my many moves that I realized the bookmark must’ve fallen out. While not all of King’s novels are great, I still read them all. For me and Dad.
So I hope that anyone out there reading will join me in wishing Dad a happy birthday today. I know he knows we’re thinking of him.
Dad was truly a good person. That’s why we had those words inscribed on his headstone.
Happy Birthday, Dad.