I have spent a great deal of time thinking and contemplating my father's passing. I can't say how much I miss him. It was always great to pick up the phone or visit him and ask his advice. He always knew the right thing to say. "Well son, that's not what I would do," "I think that's the right thing to do" "Is that really what you want to do?" Now I miss that opportunity to get his advice.
I now find myself saying, what would my dad do? It keeps me in line. I remember as a kid that I didn't want to let him down. I always kept him in mind when I thought about what to do. He told me when I was a kid, "Remember, you have my last name. Don't do anything to embarrass us." I have tried my whole life to remember that.
I was talking to my son tonight and he wanted to know how I was. I tried to tell him, but it was difficult. Not because I don't talk to him, but because I can't put my finger on how I am dealing with my dad's death. I told my son that I feel that this great big presence in my life is gone. When I think about my life, I can't remember my dad not being in it. At every big moment in my life, he was there. He never tried to dominate, but he did by his presence. The respect my brothers and I had for him was monumental. We have talked about it and we agree, that dad was there for all of us whenever we needed him.
At his funeral, my daughter made this incredible DVD of pictures of my dad and our family. The first time I saw it I cried. I told her to show it to my wife, brothers and most importantly my mother so the pain would be lessened. It was an incredible composite of pictures and everyone who knew my dad was moved. As a family, we cried and laughed. I think that's the definition of a good life. I remember an old saying, "In your life there will be laughter and tears. Live your life so that while you are living everyone laughs, and when you die, everyone cries."
My proudest moment with my dad was when I left for the military. We went to the bus station so early in the morning, about 4 AM. We were standing in the parking lot waiting for the bus and my dad grabbed me by the arm and said he wanted to talk to me. We walked away from the rest of my family and talked. I remember him saying "Son, I'm proud of you." I said "Thank you, dad." He said, " Is this what you want to do?" I said, "I feel OK with it." My dad said, "Well, if that's it, I want you to know I am with you. Do you know you'll probably go to war?" I said "Well that's what we do isn't it?" He said, "You don't have to do this, unless it's what you feel you should do." I said, "I think I should." And my dad said, "It's important that a man always do what he thinks is the right thing to do." And that phrase has stuck with me for my whole life. A man always does what he thinks is the right thing to do.
All the way down to the bus station we listened to the AM radio turned to rock music. My dad hated rock music but I think he turned it on for me. The song I remember is Elton John's "Daniel." I thought about my brothers and how much I would miss them. To this day, I think of that day when I hear that song.
I'm having a tremendously tough time dealing with my dad's death. The conversation with my son tonight focused it, and I'm glad to have talked to him for a long time and gotten some things off my chest. I want to make sure that we don't have any things missing between us. I think it's natural to look back and hope you didn't miss saying anything to your children.
My dad grew up in an orphanage during the depression. He didn't have a family and it made him fiercely proud and protective of his family throughout my life. As kids, my brothers and I hated that my dad made us say that we loved each other. We had to say "I love you" whenever we left each other. But we did it. The last time I talked to my dad we talked for 35-40 minutes, which for my dad was out of character. We talked about my childhood and all kinds of things. I told my wife that he had talked longer than I could remember. She made the comment, that we had a longer converstion than usual. But most importantly, we ended our conversation with the words we always did "I love you." God I'm glad I got to talk to him before he passed. God, I miss him.