Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Recently, one of the Fifty-Five men I interviewed for Fifty-Five Fathers called to tell me his Dad had died and he was experiencing many different feelings of grief. He also felt a real vacancy in his heart. He was thinking about the book and recalled our interview and the things he had said about his dad and came to a really powerful conclusion–that his dad had been the best Dad that he knew how to be.
I find that to be as great a compliment as any son could give to his father. Dads of previous generations found it much more difficult to be open with their expressions of love and caring. Concluding that your own father had been the best dad he knew how to be says a lot about your own understanding of your position in the scheme of your life and in the life of your father and his father and so on.
My own father was raised in a pretty cold family atmosphere. My Mom always said that it was Mom and her parents that taught my Dad how to be a hugger. She even feels that she was the one who turned my Dad’s dad into a hugger. Thanks Mom for all the hugs and for helping Dad and his family to understand the healing power of hugs.
Losing a dad, or anyone close only reinforces the idea that life is short and precious. Hug all your loved ones–especially sons and fathers–and tell them how much you love them and how proud you are. Remind them often. You just never know. Life is full of surprises and many are much more final than we wish for them to be.
9. Describe a particularly clear memory of being with your father. Answered by Neb p 49
Clear memories of being with my father, most deﬁnitely are ﬁshing trips. Every summer, my brother who lives in Albuquerque, and his two children and myself and my three, would meet up in the Big Lake area of Greer in northeastern Arizona. We would do this three or four times a summer. We would spend four, ﬁve days every time up there. This was our routine; it was traditional. We would go. Every year. And my dad was never excluded from that. He always went.
My three kids and I would drive down to Hayden and pick up my dad. He always had a small, little dufel bag that he kept his stuff in, and then he would get in the truck in the front seat and we would take o? . And it was something that when the kids were young, and they were always included, they always went—it was always the kids spending time talking to Dad and his interchange with his grandchildren. Rachel, my youngest daughter, was very, very close to him. My recollections of doing the road trip with my dad are my dad talking to the kids and the kids listening to him. Rachel mimics him. She’s the spitting image of my father. My father had these sayings, what we call Manuelismos, named after him. And a Manuelismos is like a saying that my dad invented. I’ll give you two examples, “You betchem Red Ryder, you bet your boots in the morning.” They are nonsensical sayings, what you might call a ghost whistle.
Every time I talk to my daughter Rachel, she still has these things internalized. And she’ll respond in a greeting with my dad’s sayings. She’ll say goodbye with one of my dad’s sayings. And it’s the ﬁshing trips, and the bonding there. The ﬁshing trips that we went on, watching and listening to my dad interact with my kids. Later on when my children and my brother’s children grew up and moved out of the house to have their own careers and families, it was just the three of us—my brother, myself, and my dad. And on those trips, when I would pick up my dad to go ﬁshing, we would drive for hours and hours without saying a word to each other. But just knowing that he was there, and having him there, I knew that he was enjoying the moment. He was enjoying the idea of going ﬁshing, and sometimes I think that the reason for that was that he was remembering too, thinking of the grandkids. But we would drive for hours and once in a while I would check and I’d go, “Hmm?”
And he’d go, “Ah.” That was it. (Laughs.) “Hmm?”
And we would stop and have something to eat. It was those trips, with the kids ﬁrst and then the three of us. The interesting thing about this is my father passed away in September ninety-eight, and my brother and I still get together in the summer time. I’m going to go in about three weeks with my bro up to Big Lake. We still get together and do some ﬁshing. About a year ago, my brother and I were sitting there beside the lake; we had our lines in, and we’re sitting in these little chairs, and we hadn’t spoken for about twenty minutes and we kind of just looked at each other and started laughing. So I said to my brother, “So this is what it’s come down to. It’s just the two of us.” And as a tradition when we go ﬁshing, we set out a third chair, because dad’s always there.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
7. Tell a favorite story about your dad. Answered by Carl p 21
When I was learning to play guitar there was a Gretsch guitar that I wanted to buy. And I asked my dad to go down and pick it up for me at this music store. I was in high school and you know how you’re all amped up and all that; so when I got home, it wasn’t on my bed. And so I ﬂipped out. I did. I ﬂipped out. My mom got really pissed off, giving me crap, how ungrateful I was and all that, because they went and got the guitar but they hid it. So they were messing with me. But when I got pissed off , then they chewed me out even more for being upset. And I guess the moral of the story is just because you ask somebody to do something for you, they may not be able to do it. And if they can’t, you shouldn’t get pissed off . My moral of the story is: If there’s something that you’re buying, go pick it up yourself. (Laughs.) That one sticks out. It was my ﬁrst electric guitar.
Another one that sticks out, my dad used to shoot black powder canons. So we used to go out to the Buffalo Barbecue east of town; that was fun. He’d take us with him and they’d dress up in buckskins and shoot flintlock riﬂes and all that hoopla. My friends used to get a big kick out of it, because sometimes we’d go out on the weekends. Some people would go ﬁshing or golﬁng, my dad would load this canon up in his trailer or pull it with the Volkswagen bus, and we’d all hop in and take off to the desert—where of course it’s all houses now. And we’d shoot that thing. (Laughs.) He’d shoot it at things like cars that had been abandoned, dirt embankments, and stuff like that. He was always real safe with it. He wasn’t like, shoot it and see how far it would go. (Laughs.) No, he was always real safe. If it had been just us boys, it might have been a different story. He probably knew better. I guess when his brother and he were growing up, they lived on a farm in Michigan, he bought an old signal can at an auction; they were going to shoot it on the Fourth of July. So they stuffed it full of gunpowder and wadded up paper and stuff, and it didn’t go off. After about ﬁ fteen minutes, my uncle went out there and he was sticking his face in front of it, looking. He pulled his head back, and then vavoomph, it went off . (Laughs.)
Thursday, March 20, 2008
5. Share an incident you experienced when you were proud of your father. Answered by James Louis p 14
There’s a couple that come to mind, but let's stick on the fishing thing, because that’s my train of thought. He belonged to Bassmasters, a fishing federation, and he would go out every few weeks and they would have fishing tournaments and stuff like that. He would sometimes do pretty well, sometimes not. But there’s one time I remember him winning the biggest fish part of it, called a lunker. I must have been a real little kid. He had this huge bass, six, seven pounds I think, and I just remember there were quite a few people in this bass federation. And everyone was watching as they weighed his fish and it ended up being the biggest fish and he got the trophy. And I remember how happy he was and everyone was looking at him. I remember being a little kid and thinking that must be the coolest thing in the world, right there.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
10. What single trait or strength should all fathers own? Answered by Nick p 116
Honesty. I think being honest with self and being honest with your children. As long as you have honesty, then you can work anything out. I think a father needs to have, and needs to pass on honesty to his offspring, so he can be a whole person. I think a person that lies isn’t true to self. I think that’s what fathers need most is honesty–with themselves and with their family.
Friday, February 15, 2008
I just left the skin cancer specialist’s office–only pre-cancer thank you–and I was talking with the surgery nurse about my book Fifty-Five Fathers and she told me her boyfriend would be interested because he recently lost his Dad. I explained how collecting the stories helped me feel better about losing my Dad and how I hoped the book could help her boyfriend and others like him also feel better.
Losing your Dad sucks. I miss being able to run stuff by him to see if he also thinks it is crazy and then he could remind me I am not the only one who thinks this truly is a wackier, stranger world every day. I miss his reassurances and gentle optimism wrapped in reality. I miss his hugs and his big smile. I miss my Dad. A lot. All the time.
Being connected to those hundreds of Father stories has me thinking about Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, days of remembering, reverence and appreciation. Time has taken my Dad and is erasing my Mom’s memory and strength. My son lost his maternal great aunt this week–she was ninety-nine years old and a real original that had an amazingly kind and gentle Father and an amazingly neither Mother. Life is a crap shoot. Hold on to your loved ones–some like my Dad, disappear in the blink of an eye, and some, like my son’s maternal great aunt leave in inches. Appreciate love at all times and try to spread as much around as you can, there’s never too much.
I guess seeing a skin cancer specialist and smelling your own burning flesh as he cauterizes the incision on your head can make you a little maudlin. Like Warren Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” Love is all there is. Love is the word. Spread the word. Jeff
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
8. From 10 Things Etched In My Brain p 253