I originally posted this as a "Note" on Facebook ten or twelve years ago. "Notes" have gone away, and Facebook won't let me share it any more, so I wanted to preserve it by posting it here.
This wasn't a eulogy, and it's not meant to be. My father was very much alive when I wrote it. I was a new step-dad at the time, which made me think about the man who was my role model for the job, as I rolled into my fourth or fifth Father's Day.
By the way, that picture is me and my Dad, and was taken when I was about three. I have no memory of it. But it was one of my Dad's favorite pictures of the two of us. I posted it every year on Facebook for his birthday and for Father's Day (and I continue to do so). He would always comment on how that was his favorite picture. So even though I don't remember anything about it when it was originally taken, I have nice memories of it being something my Dad really liked.
I was the third of four kids, and I think we were all unique (in our own special ways), and I don't think any of us grew up flying under the radar.
My older sister and my brother are seven and five years older than I, respectively. I really don't know what it was like for them in those early years. They were both already in school by the time I could walk, and their relationships with my father were and are their own.
Similarly, my younger sister, who is five years younger, had her own experiences. I may have been around for some, but my perspective was different. And as I got into my teens, I spent less time with the "family unit", so her experiences were truly her own.
Since I have kids now, I know that, no matter how hard you try, you just can't be exactly the same to each of them (just as they are not the same as each other).
I learned plenty from my Dad, whom I lovingly call "Pop". I think that started in Junior High, and I'm not sure why. I don't think he minded.
My Dad taught me plenty of the basics (and my Mom helped, too). While I haven't always made the best choices, I knew right from wrong. I have a pretty workable understanding of the value of a dollar (arguable, I'm sure, but again, CHOICES). And I try really hard to turn the light off when I leave a room.
Dad made family trips a lot of fun. When I was little, I rode up front, between my parents. And we'd sing silly songs, some of which were simply children's nursery rhymes that always ended with something being thrown out the second story window. That never failed to make me laugh. Dad was always good at making me laugh (although I was a pretty easy and willing audience), even if it was just his comment, as we passed a flea market sign ("Need any fleas?").
Plus, there were a lot of versus to "Found A Peanut".
And we played 20 Questions a lot. The best one was when the rest of us had determined the person my dad was thinking of was a white male. It turned out to be Donald Duck.
I spent a lot of summers on the road with him. While I now know that this may have been, at least in part, to give my mother a break, I know it was also so I could spend more time with him. He frequently traveled, leaving on Monday back late on Friday, and in the summer both my brother and I took turns joining him.
It was a fun time, going to movies in some strange city, eating at new and different restaurants, and watching TV somewhere else where they had different channels. He took me on his business calls with him, and made me feel like I was important, like I might even be helping him.
I also remember that summer when it was time for the birds and bees talk, and he told and retold that joke: I told Ken it was time to talk about the birds and the bees, and he said, "Sure, Dad, what do you want to know?"
He tried to help teach me to learn how to hit a baseball. We lived in a town that had a minor league baseball team, and my parents were involved with them in some way (I was less than ten at the time, so I really don't know). Anyway, they actually knew some of the players, and we had a couple of them over to our house. Real baseball players tried to get me to hit a baseball!
I don't believe I ever did, but it was still pretty cool!
In fact, I even played on a little league team one year. And while I never actually got a hit, I did get hit. In the arm. On my leg. And once on my back. But he still seemed proud of me, as I loped to first.
Later, I learned other important things. How to shave. How to drive. How to properly swear at lawn mowers. All the things I'd need later in life.
I've been lucky enough to have a Dad that I could talk to, about anything, too. I'm not sure how he did that, but I never felt that anything was so big and bad, that I couldn't talk to my dad about it.
So when I got fired from a job at a record store, I didn't have to pretend that anything else had happened. They had thought I was stealing, and got rid of me, only to find out later that it was someone else.
By the way, I bumped into the owner of that store years later, and he apologized.
But when I dropped out of college, when I changed religions and when I was thinking about getting a divorce, Dad was there, listening and not judging. He didn't always agree with my decisions, didn't always understand them, but he always loved me.
He's always been there, and he's always made me feel like I mattered. And that, no matter what, he still loved me and was still proud of me.
I haven't always been proud of me. I haven't even always liked me. But I never once, even for a second, doubted how my Dad felt. And I also have no doubt that that has helped me more than I'll ever be able to say, or than he'll ever really know.
Don't get me wrong. My Dad's not perfect. I'm sure my Mom could elaborate on that. And there were probably plenty of times when I was a kid that I would have been glad to tell the world just how not perfect my Dad was.
Especially at the dinner table. I was a really bad eater. I hated everything. I even hated the idea of everything. When my Mom was cooking dinner, I usually had two thoughts. I hate it. What is it? Yes, in that order.
My non-eating escapades at the dinner table aggravated my father to no end. He'd get so mad, and make threats that, if I didn't eat it tonight, I'd be eating it for breakfast. That never happened, but as an eight-year-old, I often thought it might.
But no matter how mad he got, no matter how many meals I ruined, no matter how many times he threatened to put it in the blender and make me drink it, I never doubted that he loved me.
I occasionally thought he was mean, and he didn't understand, and that he was so unfair. But I still knew he loved me.
Anyway, I tried to do that and be that for my own kids. It's tricky, since they were already in double-digits when I got here. And they're grown now, and they're really good humans (which I credit to their mother). I'm just glad I didn't screw them up.
But I did always try to make them laugh (and still do). And I try really hard to make sure that they know they matter, that I'm proud of them and that I love them. And that no matter what, I always will.
Just like my Dad.
Happy Father's Day, Pop!
I love you! And I miss you so very much!