I will never forget the call I got from my Dad the day the above picture was taken. With a quiver in his voice he said something like, “I just spent the day with the woman that played a major role in making it possible for you to be my son…Rosa Parks”. This is one of my favorite pictures of my Dad. It does not capture his true essence as my Dad, but captures a humble moment in his life and one that meant something incredibly deep and personal to him. I simply can not imagine what my life would be like without the deep influence of this man.
And, you could have never convinced me my life would have turned out the way it has 17 years ago.
Sometimes you have a plan in your head and then you have to “Deal with life on life’s terms”. My entire adult life I wanted to be a father. I actually envisioned myself as a father in my mid twenties. But then, as you have read in past posts, I had to “deal with life on life’s terms” and my vision of being a Dad was crushed. Well perhaps not my vision, but I was. I did not in anyway believe I would be a good father. How could I provide all that would be needed? I viewed myself as incapable of being a Dad. I was so wounded that somewhere along the line I convinced myself that being a father was no longer important to me…that as long as my marriage and career were ok, that I was ok. Deep within myself was an emptiness. I had lied to myself. There actually was nothing I wanted more than to have my “own” family. Eventually, I had healed and evolved enough that my insecurity about becoming a father was outweighed by a deep yearning to be “Dad”. God bless Angel for her patience with me. And then, it took over two years to conceive our first child. I became a father at age 40.
We decided to go “old school” and not find out the sex of our first child. I said what most say, “I just hope for a healthy child and am not worried about the sex”. Don’t get me wrong, I prayed for healthy above all, but I had again lied to myself. Deep within me, I wanted a chance to give what my father had given me and an opportunity to build a connection like we had…I wanted a son.
On May 9, 2012, when the doctor turned our newborn around and I saw that little “pupper”, I turned to my wife and could barely get out “Jaxon”. I was a father to a son. Later that day as I walked my Mom out of the hospital she quietly admitted to me that she wanted a son for me because of my father. It was like I was reborn. I had lost years but had regained purpose instantly. And then, 16 months later Angel and I doubled down and hit the jackpot as we welcomed Maxwell into our family. Two sons. My lies were over, dreams fulfilled and my life instantly enriched in ways I had only heard about. It was time to truly live in my father’s light. Or maybe it was time to do what he really wanted of me…to shine my own light.
So recently my wife has been saying to my youngest son, Maxwell, “Who is your hero?”….he replies, “Daddy”. Whoa! Me, a hero? I had better figure this thing out before he actually knows what he is saying! I sit here and think to myself, “Why did I look to my father as my hero?”. It’s actually hard to wrap my brain around why because he just was. What an incredible man…a gentle soul…a brilliant mind…a committed family man…my Dad. But because most of you have never met him I will give you a few of the reasons.
He did not always claim to understand. I came home many a day angry or upset and he rarely gave outright advice or claimed he understood. He comforted me or affirmed my right to the feel the way I did. One of the things I miss about him most is his arm around me or his hand on my knee. I vividly remember being with him after he had a kidney removed and as sick as he was he put his hand on my knee…I was so moved.
He found a way to make each five us five kids feel uniquely special. I was very close to my father…we did many things together. He attended all of my games, spent many Saturdays with me fishing, playing ball, doing projects around the house…just me and him…I was his favorite, right? Wrong. He found a way to do this with all of us. Each one of us has our own stories, our own unique and deep connection to him.
He did not take himself too seriously. He was the brunt of many jokes, drove a beat up car, mismatched clothes often, had no problem acting like a fool to get a laugh, and to us, despite his societal success was always simply Dad. This one is big for me. As I continue to struggle my way through my insecurities and worry what people think of me, I have also quickly learned that my sons just want their Dad. They do not care what the world thinks of me or if I had a stressful day. They just want me…my truest, silliest, craziest, most gently and loving self. And Dad was all of this.
He had holes in his socks and a dollar in his wallet. And now I have holes in my socks. It’s true and it drives my wife crazy but I say, like my Dad did, “I am good, get what you and the boys need and want”. I learned selflessness from my father. He was the last to get good golf clubs although he loved golf (He actually never bought them. A group that teased him all the time bought him a set as a parting gift when he left Minnesota)….as an example. Yet, I can not remember a time he did not try and get me what I needed. He understood what was most important and taught me that character, putting the ones you loved before yourself and how you treat people were at the top of the list.
I could go on but my throat is closing and my heart hurting. Writing this has honestly opened up the pain of losing him. I sit here in my den and simply wish he would walk through that front door and I would know he was here because my two sons would be yelling “Papa”.
Heaven must have needed a hero 17 years ago today.
Here on earth, my sons need me and I know the only way to celebrate my father in my house is to celebrate my own fatherhood and the gift I was given in my sons. Today will be a good day…full of love, foolishness, and gratitude.
Finally, my Dad’s most profound lesson he gave me is going to be passed down through my words and my actions towards my sons. Stay True Jaxon and Maxwell….Daddy loves you, believes in you, and is here for you. But, my love and belief in you alone will not take you where you want to go. You must strive to understand who you are at your core and then believe in and love that person. Then, doors will open, love will follow, and life will present you with the truest sense of joy and fulfillment.
Still,I hope one day I will earn the right to be regarded as your hero.
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