When I was in high school, my dad and I were not the best of friends. Part of it was that we were so much alike we budded heads all the time. In my early adulthood, we still did not have much to say to each other, but we got along better.
This may not sound like much of a tribute, but wait. After my mom passed away, I would visit my dad and we would literally sit across from each other without much to say after the weather and the news. As time went on, though, he would talk about his childhood, his teen years, his choices. In the last years of his life, I got to know him very well. Especially after he moved in with me and my family. I heard many, many stories that gave me a better picture of who he was.
I heard, for example, of the day he left for Mexico, pretending that he would come back, but having no intention of returning. I was less than a year old and he was overwhelmed with the idea of being a husband and father. His father had left before he was even born and there were no male role models in the home he grew up. In fact, he himself had been the male role model for his siblings, whom he financially supported since he was a kid! But as the days went by in Mexico, he missed us. He began to think of his growing up years and the challenges of growing up without a dad and that motivated him to come back and he never considered it again.
In the last years of his life, I came to appreciate my dad for who he was. I’m not one to pretend that we had a perfect home growing up, we didn’t. But my dad did a lot of things right.
Others readily remember him as a generous, hard working man, a man with a great sense of humor, a man who loved to be in a large crowd and recite poetry. And they would be right. He was all that, but so much more.
I felt honored when he would start a story with, “I’ve never told this to anyone before…” The highs and lows, the good and the bad. All the while helping me understand who he was. We talked a lot those last years. Hours in the waiting room of doctors’ offices, having breakfast together every morning, going for walks together, driving to the store.
The day he passed away, I not only mourned that he was gone, but I mourned all the things he could have been. He would have liked to go to college. He would have liked to travel. He would have liked to be so much more than he had the opportunity to be. But gosh, he overcame a lot of obstacles.
Thanks for doing your best, dad. Thanks for coming back to be my dad. And thank you for setting the bar high on determination and a sense of responsibility. You’d be happy to know that your entrepreneurial gene is alive and well in my family, too. Thank you! I love you and I miss you. Happy Father’s day.