Note To Dad…

Some Things I Should Have Said Long Ago

Most people who have children understand that they knew more about parenting before children than after they arrived. Most of us didn’t have much practice.

Eventually, however, they do grow up and become teenagers. That’s when we realize we truly know nothing. This is reinforced daily by our teenage children. They have been aware of this fact their entire lives it seems.

And if we are honest, most of us will see our teenage selves in this.

I know this was true for me.

I knew much more than my parents from the time I was about 12 years old until I had children. That was when I realized I was wrong. They had been in the same boat. Even though they did buy Dr. Spock’s book they were still groping in the darkness just as we all do.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a wonderful childhood

Even if I did not fully appreciate it at the time.

How could I? I was a kid and had no real idea of what life was about. I thought everyone’s parents supported each other like mine did. I didn’t realize the turmoil that many of my friends lived in.

I lived with both my parents. My grandparents lived nearby and I had a very large extended family. You know, the old-fashioned way life used to be in small town USA. Just like Leave It to Beaver. Well, maybe not exactly. But I did actually have a friend who was very much like Eddie Haskell.

Many of my friends expressed some form of jealousy. They thought that my father was the most fun and fantastic father a kid could have.

I was a little confused. But, after spending time in a few other homes I began to understand. Even if I still was slow to appreciate what I had.

I now now that who I have become over the course of 6+ decades is largely due to what I learned from my father. Not so much the things he told me I should do. Definitely not the things he taught me about working on cars.

The really great stuff was what I learned by watching him live his life.

The things I learned about his life before he met my mother. The person he used to be evolving into the person he has become. These were the most powerful and impactful lessons he taught. His example has never wavered, even to this day

He came from a poor family in rural Kentucky. Short Creek Kentucky to be precise. I don’t know a lot about that time, but I do know it was a hard life. He struck out on his own at about the age of 16. Landing in Chicago he got a job working in a printing company. At some point he was hit by a car and was laid up for some time.

Again, I don’t know a lot of specifics about this time. But, from there he joined the Army. Eventually he was stationed here in Washington state where he met my mother.

Over the years I have watched him face adversity financially, health wise, professionally and even in raising us kids. I know that he got upset and angry at times.

I certainly had a hand in some of that.

But he always controlled his anger. He never administered any sort of punishment if he was angry. He waited until we could talk calmly. The punishment was always there and always proportionate.

Even if I didn’t think so.

But most of all what I saw was integrity and honesty.

From him, I learned to always do the right thing. To never give up. To treat others with respect and to be honest in my words and actions.

I have watched him suffer through severe back pain surgeries and several bouts with various cancers

It’s always the same. He accepts his new reality. Explorers the best way to proceed and commits to the process. He doesn’t complain about it.

It just is, and he goes about his way.

Although he never said these words to me, this is what I have learned from him.

Whatever life brings to me is mine. What I decide to do about that is mine. The results of my decisions are mine as well.

If I commit to something there is no out. I must see it through to the finish or some acceptable conclusion. It’s not bad to fail it’s only bad not to try.

No matter what life throws at me, this too shall pass. There is always a new chapter to be written. I am the author of my story so it is up to me to write the new chapter.

Each of these seemingly negative events is a chance for a new beginning. The new beginning that will lead to a better me.

This is how I have gotten through the hardest times. Because there really is no option. At least not for me. I can’t give up, give in, become the victim. There is no gain. I will learn nothing and I will not grow.

But, I will grow to regret that I did not continue the fight.

I have never really expressed any ofthis to my father. And I regret that.

I have tried, but the words seem to disappear. Sometimes it feels awkward.

I want to cancel this regret.

Two years ago we were told he only had months to live. Well, that was two years ago. He is still here. But the future holds no promise.

In fact, we just found out his cancer has returned and at 85 he does not want to go through more treatments again. I’m not surprised and I definitely do not blame him for feeling that way. I’m pretty sure I would do the same thing.

Go figure.

Thankfully, I have this opportunity to tell the world how fortunate I have been to have the parents I have.

That they did their best and they did it well.

Thank you Dad, for a wonderful life, for all the lessons you taught me both as a child and an adult. Thank you for all the things you taught by example, by living your life as you have.

By the way, Happy Birthday!