Saturday, July 19, 2014

to the greatest man i will ever know, for (irony voice) one four letter word ...

”And now?
All of a sudden,
It seemed to strange to me,

How we’ve gone,
From something’s missing,
To a family.

Lookin’ through the glass,
I think about the man,
That’s standing next to me.

And I hope I’m at least
Half the dad,
That he didn’t have to be.

Lookin’ back?
All I can say,
About all the things he
Did for me?

Is I hope I’m at least
Half the dad,
That he didn’t have to be.

Yeah I hope I’m at least
Half the dad?
That he didn’t have to be.

Because he didn’t have to be …”


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There are a lot of people who will read this -- most of them, my parents age -- who will think of July 20th, and think of an American hero.

I am among you -- I too, will think of an American hero.  

If only to me.

Because tomorrow, on July 20th, I will arrive at my parents’ house – for once in the summer months, not my Second Parents, but the real deal – and we will celebrate a day, that nine months ago, seemed unthinkable.

Because tomorrow, my dad turns 65.

My mom earlier this week, requested that various family members and close friends, submit what my dad means to them.  I wrote a pretty decent little blurb, but come on, y’all know me.  Limiting myself to a paragraph or two, is simply not my style.

That, and in thinking about what to write as my tribute to my dad, I couldn’t help it.  I kept coming back to my favorite moment of my dad.  

When dad had his issues back in October – when we lost him for three days, and nearly lost him forever – I was forced for a few days to think of what I would say, if the worst possible outcome, occurred.

And the only thing that came to mind?

Was one four-letter word.

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This week, I had two co-workers who lost someone meaningful to them.  One of my favorite IT people lost his mom, and my boss lost her husband.  For the former, I didn’t know until a card started circulating through the department on Thursday. 

For the latter?  We were in a meeting on Wednesday morning.  My back was to the door, but my boss’ wasn’t.  A little before 10am, she got up and said to me “I have to go”.  I figured she had another meeting that mattered more than the one we were in.  (That, or she was nearly falling asleep, as the rest of us were.)

God, I wish that either had been the case. 

I had plans months in the making for Wednesday night, and as a result, didn’t really think about real life, until I arrived at work the next day.  My department head, who I’m not exactly a fan of (and the feeling is mutual; deservedly so in both cases, if I’m being fair) and I arrived at the secured door on the 5th floor at the same time, albeit on different elevators.

My department head, is amongst my boss’ best friends in life.

I looked at him; he looked at me.

He didn’t have to say a word.

His face, gave reality away.

--------------------

Over the next three months, I will have to mark – because reality demands it – the deaths of three people who mattered tremendously to me, ten years ago.  August 20th will be the tenth anniversary of one of my best friends growing up, James, decision to check out of this life on his 27th birthday.  October 5th will mark the tenth anniversary of Randy opting to check out of this life voluntarily.  And October 16th will mark the tenth anniversary of my grandma’s passing.

And sadly?  None of those three remembrances, are the death I’ll mourn the most over the next few months.
  
Because August 15th will mark the two year anniversary, of the murder of “The Family”.

I suppose that as the year goes along, I’ll find my way to pay tribute to two amazing friends, and one amazing grandparent, in my own way, after ten years of living without them.

Tribute.  It’s a word that’s been around for thousands of years, dating back to the Roman Empire using it as a euphemism for “tax”.  But modern history has redefined the word.  Now?  We refer to “tribute” as “to honor”.  “To recognize”.  To simply say “thank you for who you are, for who you were, for what you did”. 

That, peoples and peepettes?  Is the easy thing to do, for someone you care(d) about, for someone who has meaning to you.

The hard part?

Is one four letter word, in the opening lyrics, that defines my favorite moment with my dad.

And it’s those four letters, that explain why I’m going to break a promise I made last year, in what I acknowledge is my favorite post I’ve ever written.

--------------------

“1995.

Perhaps no year has been more eventful to me, in a positive way.  I graduated high school.  I moved away to college.  It’s also the year my favorite moment with my dad occurred, on a cold, snowy February Thursday night.  It’s a moment only he and I would know about, and he probably doesn’t even remember it, but it’s the one reason I keep struggling to keep going, to keep living.

It’s a story I’ll tell only once, and I am dreading the day, that story gets told.  We came way too damned close to that day arriving, six weeks ago.  WAY too damned close.”


--------------------

When my mom asked me to write a quick note to express and/or explain what my dad means to me, I tried to figure out how to work my favorite moment with my dad, into a paragraph or two. 

And I realized, I couldn’t do it.  I mean, I managed to … but it’s a pathetic representation, of what I think of my dad.

And I’m glad – hell, I’m PROUD – of that, because honestly folks?  If you can sum up someone who has unconditional value and meaning to you in a paragraph?

They don’t have unconditional value, and meaning, to you.

I couldn’t sum up “The Voice of Reason”, or Jasson, or my brother, or Vineet, or “The Ex”, in a paragraph.  I couldn’t sum up Penny and DeHart, my Second Parents, “The Perpetual Intern”, Donnie, Doc, in a paragraph or two.  I couldn’t sum up “The Crush”, Anthony and Jaimmie, Heath or Brett, in a paragraph. 

I am dreading the fact, I’m going to have to sum up Gusser in a paragraph or fifteen, in about six months, and hopefully, God gives him (and us) the over, in that bet on the timeline.

I couldn’t sum up “the Other Steve”, the guy I sit by at Chiefs games, in a paragraph or two, and I sure as hell couldn’t sum up my Springfield friends, in a paragraph.

Hell -- sadly, pathetically, even now?  I couldn’t sum up the Champ or the Chica in a paragraph.  I probably couldn’t sum them up in a month’s worth of posts, for what they’ve meant to me.

I couldn’t sum up my late buddy James, or Randy, or my grandma, or any grandparent of mine I knew – be it my mom’s folks, or my dad’s mom, or Delbert* – I couldn’t sum any of them up, in a paragraph or two.

I couldn’t sum up my mom in a paragraph or two, and God knows we don’t exactly see eye to eye on just about anything.

I mention those facts, because they raise one significant question:

What the hell was my mom thinking (or drinking), in expecting me, to sum up my dad, in a paragraph or two?

--------------------

(*: I never knew my dad’s dad.  I mean, I knew him, but he passed away when I was two, so I don’t remember him.  I always considered Delbert my other grandpa, and I’m damned proud of that.)

--------------------

I choose to make this post, the story I swore I would share only once, as I noted in my favorite post, I’ve ever, uuh, posted.

I choose to share it, because when you truly care for someone?  They should know about it, while they can still know about it.  Holding back how you feel about someone until they’re gone?  Is just so selfishly wrong, it’s embarrassing and pathetic.

If I can convey anything entering this weekend, entering the 45th anniversary of a man landing on the moon, and the 65th anniversary of the greatest man I've ever known entering this amazing gift from God we call life, please – don’t let petty sh*t destroy your relationship with others. 

If a friend asks you to talk?  Humble yourself, and talk. 

If you hurt someone?  Apologize to them, and own your failure.

Because if there is one lesson in life my dad has taught me?  It is this:

NOTHING in life is truly unforgivable …

… other than failing to express exactly how you feel about someone, while they’re still around, to hear it.

--------------------

It was the last Thursday of February 1995.  And it was cold.  I know it was cold, because Dad made me get out, and put gas in the car, under the “I’m not freezing out there to go to your deal, and I’m paying, so start pumping!” argument, that I couldn’t refute.

My “deal” that night, was a presentation by Baylor University, at the Leawood Baptist Church off of State Line and 83rd.   I pass by that church every day on my way to and from work. 

Those of you who know me best?

Know that I do not believe in coincidence.

I had narrowed down my choice of schools, to two: TCU and Baylor.  My dad and I had visited each the previous August – we visited TCU on August 11, and Baylor on August 12.  If you are a fan of Major League Baseball?  You know what happened on Friday, August 12, 1994. 

Again – I do NOT believe in coincidence.

The presentation itself was fine.  Baylor didn’t lose me that day, I’ll put it that way.  But the selfish side of me, had had its’ mind made up on August 11th, and the choice was TCU. 

But the practical side of me, was still giving Baylor every chance, to get me to change, the selfish side’s outcome.

We left the presentation about 8:30, and on the way home, Dad asked if I was hungry, and so we stopped in at where Tippins used to be at 435 and Metcalf.  It is another place I pass by every day, on my way to and from work.

Again – I do NOT believe in coincidence.

I ordered a burger and some kind of drink; my dad ordered about three pieces of pie, coffee, and “don’t you dare tell your mother about this!” words of threat to me.  Hey, pops wants me to keep my mouth shut?  I can do that.

Especially if he’s paying.

Not just for dinner … but for damned near everything in my life, up to that point.

--------------------

Baylor offered more in scholarship money.  Baylor was (pathetically enough) cheaper than TCU.  It was not in the heart of America’s fifth largest metropolitan area (which would make my mommy happy).  It was a very, very strict Baptist school (see previous parenthetical response – although considering my buddy Neeck went there, and called it “the best five years of my life”?  I actually think I missed out, in hindsight.)

Baylor had a comparable business school, and a better journalism school (I knew I wanted to major in one of those two fields) than TCU at the time, and from a sports perspective, it was a lock to merge with the Big 8, while TCU was definitely on the outside looking in.  (Funny how things change over twenty years, isn’t it?)

If you were doing a pro-con checklist?  Baylor probably would have the advantage in every column, save one.

I didn’t want to go there.

I wanted TCU.

I wanted to play Colonial (which I got to every Tuesday my sophomore year … and yes, that was a total and utter waste of $325 times three credit hours.  I couldn’t break 50 playing 9 holes to this day.)  I wanted the Metroplex.  I wanted to be closer to family (my dad’s brother and sister both lived there then, and now).  I wanted to be closer to a fun nightlife (which if you know me now, or over the last ten years, is a laugh out loud proposition – I’m that guy, who sits on the couch, raising a glass of champagne to whoever the hell replaced Strokey Dick Clark, on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, on, uuh, New Year’s Eve). 

Mostly though, I wanted to go to where I felt the most comfortable.

Even if it was a staggering amount more expensive, than Baylor.

Cue the question, that sparked my favorite moment, with my dad.

--------------------

(my dad, about halfway through dinner) OK, kid, it’s decision time.  Where do you want to go?  (resumes eating one of his three pieces of pie.)

--------------------

I told my dad what I thought was the right response, and what I thought he wanted to hear.

I told him my choice …

… was Baylor.

“Dad, tonight was good.  I liked Baylor.  I liked the live bear,**  I liked the town, I liked the people we met, you know, Baylor’s fine.  I’m cool with Baylor.  Baylor’s my choice.”

You’d have thought I shot the President, based on my dad’s facial expression.

And you’d have thought I killed Jesus himself, based on his response, to those two simple little words.

“Baylor’s fine.”

--------------------

(**: yes, there is a live bear, in his own little bear cave, on the Baylor campus.)

--------------------

Those of you reading this that know my dad, know there are two things he rarely does:

(1) betray his emotions, and
(2) use a four-letter word that falls into the offensive category, of four-letter words..

My dad is as stoic as they come.  I try to emulate that – and honestly, I think I do a decent job, of letting the hurts of life, just roll off of me -- at least initially.

(Unfortunately?  That means I let them build, until I blow.)

But swearing?  Come on!  Read this site!  I’ve NEVER met a four letter word I didn’t love to say, write, or type!

My dad?  Argues if you resort to swearing, “you cheapen the conversation”.

Which is why, what happened after I said “Baylor’s fine”?

Is my favorite memory of my dad.

--------------------

He slammed the fork onto the plate, of whatever piece of pie, he was on.

That?  Was undeniable, because it made me set the half of my burger I was working through, down onto the plate, it so grabbed my attention.

He SLAMMED the fork, onto the plate, Dad was so angry at those two words.

“Baylor’s fine”.

Cue “The Moment”.

--------------------

And for those of you who object to language?  I’m going to quote my dad’s exact response, verbatim.  I will never forget these words, as long as I live. 

If you’re offended by foul language?

You still aren’t as offended, as my dad was on that February night, at the words “Baylor’s fine”.

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“God f*cking dammit*** Steven!  This is the last thing, I ever have to do for you!  You go where you want to go!”

-- my Dad, at that Tippins, on that night in late February 1995.

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(***: for those of you who have ever wondered where my favorite swear phrase came from?  Of COURSE I stole it, from my hero in life.)

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The first four words?  Aren’t why this is my favorite moment, with my dad.

And for the record, it’s not the last seven words either.

Because any parent worth a damn, would want their kid, to be granted what they desire.

It’s the middle twelve, that not only explain why I’m still here …

… but why my dad is the greatest man, you could ever have the high honor and privilege, of knowing.

And more to the point?

It’s one of those twelve words -- four letters in length -- that defines the greatest man, I’ve ever had the honor of knowing.

Let alone have the honor, of simply calling “Dad”.

It’s one four letter word.

And again – I don’t believe in coincidence.

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Dad will never admit it, but one of his favorite movies – probably because Mom made him watch it so much, he gave up fighting it and just enjoyed it, is "Love Story"

And the famous quote from that movie, courtesy of the amazing Ali MacGraw, is “love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

With all due respect to Jenny (Ms. MacGraw's character in the movie)?

I’ve always thought, that’s the most bullsh*t quote in Hollywood history.

Because it’s 100% ass backwards.

Love means always having to say you’re sorry.  You’re sorry that someone doesn’t care as much for you, as you do for them.  You’re sorry that you can forgive, when the other side won’t.  You’re sorry that you don’t deserve, the love and respect your friend or loved one shows you, when it isn’t earned.

You’re sorry you betray someone’s trust.  You’re sorry you screw up, you fail, you (insert dumb (bleep!) decision here).  

You're sorry you're not good enough, to be in the person you care about's presence.  That?  Is what true love, is.

Love means always saying you’re sorry, because the other party matters more to you, than you do.

Once you’re no longer capable of saying you’re sorry?  Once you lose the ability to admit you’re flawed, you failed?

Once you lose the ability to admit someone matters more to you, than you do?

That is the moment the love you have for that person? 

Dies.

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“This is the last thing, I ever have to do for you.”


 Have you figured out the four letter word yet?

(the late, great allen ludden voice) "the password is ... have".

"Have".

The last thing my dad felt he had to do for me, was get me into college.

That was twenty years ago.

I am thirty seven.

Which means, for over half of my life, my dad has had my back in every way imaginable -- financially, emotionally; as a parent, and as a friend.  As a fellow lover of libations ... and as a fellow lover of libations.  As a sounding board, and as a "Voice of Reason".  (Sorry Gregg; but someone had to be the initial one.)  As a fellow Chiefs fan; as a fellow raiders and broncos hater.  (Dad hates oakland more; I hate denver more.  "The Voice of Reason" is right -- it's a generational thing.)  

When someone else around me, I find forced to question their loyalty?

There's one man I know, I don't ever have to question. 

My Dad.

Which is why October 6th hurt me, as much as it did.

And why tomorrow?

I'm going to cry even more than I did, outside of Shawnee Mission, that painful Sunday nine months ago.

Because I get at least one final chance, to express to the greatest man I will ever know -- and I'd argue the greatest man anyone reading this could ever know?

I get one final chance, to simply express, that someday?

I hope I'm at least?
Half the man,
That he didn't have to be.

Because Dad didn't have to be.

God above, I love you Dad.  Happy 65th birthday.

And thank you, God above, for giving us this day, we did nothing to deserve.

Sometimes?

You're as amazing, as my Dad is ...

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