A Letter to My Dad

Dear Dad,

Though it’s reckless to assume, I think I’m probably safe thinking that there’s nothing I could get you for Father’s Day that you really need. And, knowing your penchant for instant gratification, there are probably very few things that you even want. So, instead of buying you something lavish, I thought I’d give you something free: my thanks, my admiration, and my love.

As a father now myself, I often find myself standing in your shoes, saying your words, teaching your lessons. And I know in my heart that — for better or worse — I’m primarily a near carbon copy. I’m filled to the point of overflowing with love for these kids, and I can only imagine the heartache ahead. Very much, I suspect, like the heartache I’ve caused you and Mom over the years. I don’t mean the big things. I think the big things — the car accidents, the injuries, the trouble with authorities — those things quickly fade. I’m beginning to see that the bigger heartaches are caused by all the little things. The late nights, the stupid decisions, the mistakes, the uncanny and idiotic need to learn on my own terms…

My God — how you and Mom must have fretted over the smallest of details! “Will he ever take anything seriously? Will he ever truly apply himself? Will he ever use the gifts God has given him? Will he ever find a girl the caliber of his mother?” I can imagine the multitude of questions, mainly because I’ve already begun asking versions of them myself.

I know I’ve made you proud, mainly because you’ve told me so, and because pride is innate. I’m already proud of Lily and Jack, for everything they do, every day. I’m proud when they accomplish something, but I’m just as proud when they wake up and face a new day with renewed spirit and a positive attitude. Yet another of your lessons I’ve already begun teaching: choose your attitude, choose your demeanor. And, as often as possible, choose joy.

I introduced Char to a friend of mind last Sunday. As I turned to talk to someone standing next to me, I heard him say to her, “He’s a good man.” Such a simple statement, but one that carries a lot of weight with me. All my life, without exception, whenever I meet anyone who knows you, they always say the same about you. “He’s a good man.” “Yes, he is,” my inevitable response. Such a simple goal, and so hard to attain. But in the end, I realize that this is the only lesson that really matters. This is what I’m trying to teach my kids: Be a good person. Do the right thing. Take care of each other.

How fast and fleeting are these days; this life. I’m still that boy of five, sitting outside hammering on a block of wood… I’m still that boy of ten playing kick the can throughout the neighborhood… I’m still that boy of twelve carrying your golf clubs… Still that boy of fourteen running back to the cabin with someone else’s fish! I’m still the boy who joined the Navy, went off to boot camp, and cried at how much I missed my family… I’m still the man who got commissioned as an officer and saluted my Dad. I salute you still.

Thank you, Dad. For all the lessons through all the years. For loving me enough to be impatient, for being hard to please, for expecting more and teaching me to expect more of myself. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Thank you for encouraging me to aim high. To learn from my mistakes and — eventually — even learn from the mistakes of others! Thank you for finding and loving my Mother. Thank you for your laughter, your (our) weird sense of humor, and for teaching us all that “a wet bird never flies at night.”

And thank you for your service to our country and your myriad of sacrifices for all of us.

Most of all, thank you for being you, and for providing such a great example of a good man to which I could aspire. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Hugs to Mom.