July 21, 2010

I Call Him Dad

I call him dad and today marks the six year anniversary of his triple bypass. This past April marked six years since he suffered a major heart attack and spent six months in a hospital. It was an experience that had a major impact upon my life and in many ways is really the reason that this blog exists.

It is true that I started writing it on a whim, but I quickly found that it was a safe place to write about my thoughts, ideas and fears. It was my cyberspace refuge and one that I quickly learned to love. Now I look back at posts that I wrote then and am taken back to those moments. In some cases the writing is just awful but that is ok.

My abba
More on dad
My dad
My father- The saga continues

They say that hindsight is 20-20 and in many ways I suppose that it is true. When I look back at some of the posts I shake my head and wonder about how and I why I reacted the ways that I did. Some of that is unfair. I can't expect that the 35 year-old to respond as the 41 year-old one would. All the responsibilities and life experiences from then made me a tougher, harder man.

Some of that is good. Life can be very rough and there is no exaggeration in saying that it can and will beat you down. The moments of doubt and fear forced me to grow. Standing next to my father's unconscious body, watching a ventilator keep him alive helped to provide perspective.

It reminded me that fathers love their daddies too. It made my dad human. That probably sounds a little bit funny coming from an adult, but it is true. Until then I hadn't realized that I thought of dad as being invulnerable and invincible. The man who at times made me crazy at times had been given some super powers by his oldest son.

I remembered when a couple of marines started arguing with my mother. We were near Camp Pendleton on a family trip. I must have been about seven or eight. They thought that mom had opened the car door into their car and were giving her a hard time. They didn't notice my father loading the bags into the old station wagon.

But I remember how quickly they got into their car when they did.I remember how one moment he was at the back of the car and the next he was standing between our car and theirs. I remember the look on his face and knowing that he was angry. I don't have to close my eyes to see that look or remember his clenched fist.

They left before we did. I can't tell you exactly what they said to each other, although I did hear quite a bit. But I can tell you that it is one of those moments that helped me understand that a father's job description includes protecting his family.

It isn't the only time that I saw my father go to bat for us. There are lots of different examples not all of which involve conflict or confrontation. I didn't recognize some of them for what they were until I became a father. Didn't understand or appreciate a lot of things, but sometimes that is how it goes.

There are a lot of stories to be written and told about dad. I am guessing that until I turned 25 or so he was probably still physically stronger than I was. It is kind of a silly thing, but as a rite of passage I had always planned on winning a wrestling match. I never did.

Not because he always beat me but because that match never did materialize. You can blame my mother for that. She is the one who asked me not to challenge him, explained that he wasn't ready to let his son win. It was hard to accept. I waited for years to be big enough to take him on.

Worked out extra hard at the gym too. The men in the family tend to have broad shoulders and a lot of natural strength. I was convinced that without throwing the weights around I wouldn't stand a chance. So it was hard to let mom convince me not to throw down the gauntlet.

But I understand it differently now. I can't imagine the day when my son will be capable of beating me. Call it ego but I just can't and I don't want it to happen. So I can appreciate this now and understand that it was better for us. I am ok with it.

Seeing dad on that machine was awful, a memory that haunted me for a while. Listening to the beeps and whistles and general click clack that kept him alive scared me a bit.

But like I said, he beat the odds and now six years later I am still incredibly thankful to have my father. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.  Not just because we still have him but because I can say that we have developed quite a relationship. It is still father and son, but there is a sort of friend aspect to it.

Took decades to get to this point, but I have finally lived long enough and experienced enough that I can sit with him and talk about things with a real understanding. So dad, if you ever read this let me say thank you for everything. I am still learning from you and I appreciate all that you have done.

With a lot of love,

Your son

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