The Aftermath Of The Storm

It’s almost a month since my father died and now I wander through the aftermath of the storm picking up the pieces.

Sometimes I feel like I am wandering on a sandy beach picking up pieces of driftwood, marveling at the majesty of nature.

One moment the storm is mighty and terrible and then it is gone and you can’t imagine a nicer, warmer and more inviting place to be.

And then there are those other moments where the sea rages and I fight to keep the waves from tossing our ship against the rocks.

Love hard and live hard.

It is how I roll.

The Aftermath Of The Storm

I started this blog in May of 2004.

Dad was on life support and the docs said he was done, but Steiner the Elder challenged Death to a bare-knuckles brawl and Death was dumb enough to accept.

Dad beat him.

He kicked his bony ass up and down the street and embarrassed him so badly that it took Death a decade to try to come back.

That sneaky bastard made an effort to slip in through the back door and we’ll give him credit because he did all he could to weaken dad.

And so we reached the place 14 years later where Death felt comfortable coming back and they went at it again.

When I got the call they told me dad wouldn’t make it through the night, so I did what I had done before.

I booked the first flight I could catch and drove like Batman chasing the Joker to the hospital.

Dad was still conscious, still fighting but in more pain and distress than I had ever seen before.

He made it five full nights beyond the doctor’s prediction.

Intellectually it all makes sense and I understand exactly what happened. My father had a pretty damn good life.

We had lots of time to talk about all that was going on and we said most of what had to be said.

I say most because you never really feel like you got enough time. I expected it but the truth i I am surprised at how much harder this is.

Surprised that as an almost middle-aged man there have been moments that reminded me of being a 10-year-old boy who just wanted to play catch with his dad.

The silence is deafening and though I accept it I will never like it.

One day at a time is the new mantra.

What Comes Next

We move on from Words Are For You to a month of silence into the new place where we wonder what comes next.

I don’t have the time to provide a proper post that fills in the blanks, gaps, nooks, and crannies for what I am referring to here.

This isn’t intended to be a teaser where I give you a taste of something that will catch your eye and make you anxiously await the next installment.

It’s just one man saying one of the hardest and biggest changes a person can face has come about and now that it is over I am standing on the other side trying to catch my breath.

This is the first moment I have had to think about and consider what I want to do, what I ought to do and what I need to do.

It is the first moment where I can try to wipe away the fog and figure out what comes next.

Life is forever changed and for once that is not an exaggeration. The lack of hyperbole in that underscores the intensity of the moment and the profound sense of “WTF” just happened.

I guess I am going to find out.

Do You Trust Yourself?

There is a scene that replays inside my head on a regular basis that looks something like this.

It is about ten years or so since Lost premiered on ABC and I got to wonder about the modern castaways and the magic island.

If you never saw it and wanted to get a crash course in what I watched and maybe gain some insight into why the show caught my eye you can watch this clip here.

Unfortunately I don’t think it will provide you with the sort of understanding I really want you to have about what I see in my head now and how it connects to  the show.

That pains me a bit as a person, writer and storyteller because I feel like I should be able to explain things in a way that provides clarity and insight.

Ask those who know me well and they’ll tell you now is about the time I might whip out that Einstein quote about how if you can’t explain it to a six-year-old you don’t understand it well enough yourself.

It would be done with great enthusiasm and energy, lightning will fly from my fingers and lasers from my eyes but the only response I would get is, “Do you trust yourself?”

laotzuwhoweare

The answer to the question is “yes, I trust myself. I do. I do so in spite of being frightened and uncertain. I do so not because I have a perfect track record of surviving bad days but because my gut says to ‘believe.’

****

I made a sarcastic remark to someone the other day and asked them if they knew McCartney was in a band before Wings.

Took less than a moment for me to realize it was the wrong pop culture reference for him and that if I didn’t have kids our musical interests might not intersect at all.

On a side note, my kids are familiar with the Fab Four, classic rock and a ton of other old music as well as new stuff.

Anyhoo, I mention that because I am listening to Paul sing Maybe I’m Amazed and thinking about how my world was turned upside down and inside out a long while ago.

Thinking about how this song means something different to me than it once did and how many other songs have evolved over the years.

Or rather how my understanding and or appreciation of them have evolved over time.

Age and experiences have impacted how I see so much, sometimes  pushing me to take a position that is 180 degrees from the one I once held.

Kind of funny to me to think about how dumb I was about some things and how I held onto certain ideas and beliefs because fear wouldn’t allow me to do anything but stick my fingers in my ears and scream LALALALALA!

Do You Let People See You?

I am relatively guarded about who I let in and how much I am willing to share with them.

Been that way for so long I can’t tell you how or why it started and I am not sure that it matters. What matters to me is a long time ago I realized if I wanted to have certain things in life I had to let people see me.

What matters to me is a long time ago I realized if I wanted to have certain things in life I had to let people see me.

Not so long ago I tried to explain to my son why it was important and how the reward easily outweighed the risk.

He didn’t really get it and I was ok with that because he is young. I wouldn’t expect him to completely understand, but I thought it was a useful conversation to have.

I thought it was a teaching moment that might lead to some real benefit and opportunity for him and so I took a shot.

What Comes Next

I feel like I have spent a lifetime working towards what comes next but then again I feel like I have been Jack Shepherd screaming about the need to go back to the island.

That is because I left my island quite some time ago knowing that once I left the angels that garden my eden would shut the gate behind me.

Knowing once I passed through I wouldn’t be able to turn around and say I had made a mistake, I would have to go on the great journey and adventure.

Sometimes I like to think I hopped on my horse and trotted out like the cool hero or that I jumped behind the wheel of my car and floored it.

Hit the road doing 90 knowing that the sooner I got to it the sooner I would get to take a shot at getting back.

Eventually I did what I said I would and found my way back but the gates were broken and bent and the castle had been leveled.

Took a long while for my anger and frustration to subside and for me to recognize it was always about building something new.

So that is what comes next, the move to build anew.

Can’t tell you if that will be built upon the island I once lived upon or if it will be somewhere new but I can promise you it will be built.

Doesn’t matter to me if I am going to handle the foundation and framing myself because the time has come.

Can’t wait.

Won’t wait.

All that matter is moving ahead and seeing what unfolds as I go along.

That is a father’s obligation.

You’re Lucky Your Father Is Alive

Some of my friends would yell at me if I told them how angry my father made me last week. They’d say I should remember how lucky I am because father’s don’t stick around for as long as we hope they will.

Sometimes they contract terminal illnesses and die younger than they should, they get hit by buses or are murdered.

I have friends who lost their fathers in all of these ways so none of those examples are being used because they make for a better story.

Hell, a better story would be to talk about how they are all still around and that the other stuff was a bad dream, but the thing is that is not true.

They are all gone and unless something crazy happens none of them are coming back here any time soon.

So I am lucky to have a father who managed in under two minutes to make me about as angry as I ever get.

Fortunately there weren’t any doors or walls close by or I very well might have tried to tear them down.

No, I am not exaggerating, dad managed to move us both back in time and instead of just rolling my eyes or ignoring him I saw red.

What Happened To Your Thick Skin?

Most insults roll off of me and unless you are one of a small number of people I don’t care what you say or think about me.

Did I mention that the person who is most likely to be able to pierce my thick skin in 30 seconds or less is my dad.

It has always been like that and even after all these years, the damn man can manage to do what almost no one can.

Maybe it is a good thing we don’t fight all that much, doesn’t mean we haven’t gone at it because we have.

It is like screaming in the mirror and about as effective. I hate fighting with him.

Fortunately fighting is something that we do much, never did. Always been close and with few exceptions we have managed to get along quite nicely.

The funny thing about becoming a parent is realizing that the father you've become sounds like your dadClick To Tweet

Just steer clear of a couple of stories, you know the ones that your parents never let you forget about because for some unknown reason they feel obligated to never let them die a natural death and all is well.

Most of the time that is, there are those moments where they…aren’t.

Moments like the one I referred to above where I wonder how he has managed to do it again and I promise myself that my children will never say anything like this about me.

But those are few and far between.

Ask me to describe my dad and I’ll tell you I learned everything I know about being a father from him and my grandfathers. I’ll tell you about how I learned he was a superhero and how I learned that he was just a man too.

The funny thing about becoming a parent is realizing that the father you’ve become sounds just like your dad. Sure it is your voice speaking but the words that come from your mouth sound just like him.

What Can A Father Teach You?

When I was a wee lad I thought my dad knew everything because he could answer any question I asked him to.

I am not sure when I realized that his knowledge was limited but I also knew that he and mom had provided me with the key to learning anything.

It was all in books and the folks made sure that I learned that the public library was a friend and trusted source of information.

They lit the fire for my love of reading and then sent me to the library so I would never run out of kindling.

BooksAsk me what I dream about and I can promise you I’ll tell you about owning a house that has the kind of library that makes the ones on this list seem like a joke.

Share a moment with me and I’ll talk about overstuffed chairs and couches that are built for reading. I’ll tell you about having nothing but time to read and learn and then I’ll sigh and talk about how I wish I could live to a thousand.

There is never enough time to do all that we want, at least not for me. There is so much to do and to learn.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
― Aristotle, Metaphysics

Dad is the one who I battled the most with about thoughts and ideas. He is the man who pressed me to account for my actions, to defend thoughts and ideas and to not give in.

He is also the person who made it clear that a smart person doesn’t listen to both sides for the sake of fairness and equality but because it is part of how you figure out what side you really want to stand upon.

Don’t take this to mean that mom wasn’t involved or responsible for who I am, she just played a different role.

Not better or less, different.

There are some things that only a father can teach a son and well…dad did that.

Now it is my turn.

What Kind Of Father Are You?

Many years ago I asked my dad and grandfather if they ever compared themselves to their fathers and they laughed.

They said yes and told me not to waste my time trying to measure up against anyone but myself.

It is good advice and most of the time I follow it.

The world I am parenting in isn’t the same one my parents had to work with.

You can debate and discuss whether technology and the economy have made it harder or easier but it doesn’t matter because we are not going to go back in time.

It is the kind of narishkeit that might make for a good book but doesn’t serve any other purpose for me.

You’re Lucky Your Father Is Alive

I am lucky my father is alive, but the truth is that if he hadn’t almost died this blog probably wouldn’t be here.

If he hadn’t spent all that time on life support I wouldn’t have needed a place to vent and scream so this joint probably wouldn’t be here.

But that is a whole different discussion.

All I know is that I am grateful to have my father in my life and that I hope never to piss off my kids the way he did with me the other day.

Dammit, how does he still do it after all these years.

Will You Always Need Your Father

father wisdom
The Shmata Queen says I love quotes and I won’t disagree because I do.

Some of it is because I love words and stories and looking for ways to connect them all but it is also because I love learning.

A good quote doesn’t have to have any substance to it. Sometimes it is just funny but my favorites are usually those that give me something to think about and learn from.

Will You Always Need Your Father

There is no punctuation at the end of that line. It is intentional because I am not sure how I want to it to read yet and even if I come up with an answer I may leave it for the reader to decide what should be there.

Yesterday I called my father and asked for some help. I wanted to borrow a couple of tools so that I could work on some projects at my house and I wanted to talk to him about some of the other crap that has been going on in my life.

Dad and I have always had a good relationship but like any parent/child relationship there have been moments where we wanted to kill each other.

Most of them are long ago but there have been a few in recent years that have been far more difficult probably because when you hit your mid forties you are less tolerant of some things.

Still I will never forget The Best Thing My Father Ever Said To Me not just because of how good it was to hear but I recognized I could ask dad for advice or just chew the fat with him without wondering if he was going to give me a lecture about how or what I was doing.

Indulge me for a moment while I mention that it was my friend Leon of The People We Meet Online fame who provided me with an article about parenting that I used as part of the post about the best thing my father ever said to me.

It really is too bad Leon is gone because I would have written him today to mention his influence again and how it ties into the Mark Twain quote above but such is life, sometimes we miss opportunities.

*****

Dad surprised me again yesterday by telling me I am putting too much pressure on myself and pushing me to slow down a bit.

When I told him some of this is his fault and that I am reflecting the lessons I learned as a kid and teenager he laughed.

“Yeah, I told you to take responsibility for your life and to work hard. I told you to run through the walls when you had to and push hard but it’s different now.”

When I asked him what was different he told me that  thirty years ago he worried about giving me too much leeway to not work hard and family history bit me again.

“Remember when you were tested in school and we found out that you were gifted? You stopped working as hard in school and you took some shortcuts. Your grades were still good but you didn’t always apply yourself the way you could have and I didn’t want that to continue.”

I looked at him and shook my head.

“C’mon dad, that didn’t always happen.”

He laughed.

“No, not always. When you wanted something you worked harder than everyone but you were stuck in the too smart but not smart enough contradiction. If you put that effort in consistently your grades would have reflected it. But that is in the past and there is no point discussing it.

The point is that some of the stuff you are going through now has nothing to do with you as a person. Not one thing is tied into you other than you are experiencing it. So you need to figure out how to dial back that intensity or you’ll make yourself sick.”

Dad and I went back and forth for a bit and talked a bit about his dad and grandfather and what they would have said and then I left.

The sunshine of the prior days had been replaced with rain which lent itself to thinking so I drove around the corner and parked the car to consider it all.

Dad had mentioned how sometimes he missed talking to his dad and I thought about how my grandfather had mentioned he missed talking to his.

It made sense to me. All of my friends who have lost their fathers have told me they miss them. I hope to get another 50 years before I join that club.

Books, Wisdom & Fathers

A few moments before I left my parents’ house I asked to borrow a computer because it is easier on my eyes.

Mom asked if I have started using reading glasses and I told her only when I am very tired or in very poor lighting.

She smiled and told me not to tell my middle sister because “she is blind without her reading glasses. I don’t think she likes being in her forties.”

I laughed and said I was on the fence. Some of it has been rough and some of it has been awesome.

****

Reading is a passion and I never have enough time for it.

I have a stack of books and magazines on hand at home at all times. Outside of the house I rely on my phone and apps or laptop if I have taken it with me.

Given a choice I prefer to be surrounded by books because like Twain said I can’t help but feel like wisdom and knowledge is seeping into me.

That is part of what fathers are good for. Repositories of knowledge and wisdom that can be shared for whomever is wise enough to ask and understand.