Life Lesson #0040: Dad

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I think only the urgency of needing something to say at a funeral has been able to motivate me enough to be able to write about life lessons I learned from Dad. It’s been so many days that I’ve had only the title of this post as a draft… with nothing here. I keep looking at it and wanting to write.

Dad’s lessons he taught me are many. I think most often now about how he lived life the way he wanted, and he continued to fight to do so even when cancer sought to interfere. I never know what will happen next in life, so I’m going to live today as best I can, seeking happiness for me and to whatever extent I can help, for you.

Because I’m struggling to write much, what follows is my talk I wrote for dad’s funeral service:

Thanks to everyone who has shown me and my family so much love and support. In starting to consider how I could succinctly express my feelings about Dad, I immediately thought of a couple unique experiences we had together. But then I started feeling really overwhelmed by the number of father-son experiences I could share at a moment like this, because I literally have a lifetime of experiences to draw from.

I love my dad and I really can’t summarize all that I learned from him or everything he meant to me.

So for today, I just decided to focus on one characteristic that I love about my dad from my perspective:

He was never afraid to be uniquely him.

If he had an interest, he pursued it. I don’t know if I’ve ever realized until now how much this characteristic of his has been a positive influence on me.

There are lots of examples of this that I can think of, … I don’t know anyone that watches hours of the Weather Channel mostly watching the specific movement of radar maps of storms thousands of miles away… but Dad would, with enthusiasm, and even with his own sound effects for the animation of the maps.

Dad often had a penchant for using $10 descriptive words around the house. These were the types of words that would just eventually become archaic were it not for word nerds like Dad. He managed to create a family of word nerds. He would wake me up for school everyday by saying things like: “Be circumspect.” (I never caught his love of long distance running, but I’m decent at Boggle!)

Dad loved finding antique treasures, but rather than go the more expected route of shopping antique stores, he would drive hundreds of miles all over the place to ghost towns to metal detect or even dig up and sift through the dirt. All to find the really unique stuff.

More than once in my life I sought advice from dad and he would completely surprise me with a perspective I hadn’t even thought about or considered one he would offer. And it was good advice.

I have always enjoyed writing poetry, and at some point I think it became an important form of emotional expression for me. Particularly when I was younger, it was difficult for me to share more emotionally sensitive poetry with others. Hence why I so vividly remember when my Dad proudly shared a poem of that kind that he’d had published about 20 years ago. He’d written a poem about his Grandpa Thornton near the time that Grandpa Thornton passed away.

Grandpa T. at 89

Quiet, accepting the child. 

Always there at the right time,

Guiding thought, giving me work.

Then paying in silver, when he didn’t have it to give.

A young boy’s first memory – a long fishing trip

All was new, and I wanted all

“Don’t leave me, I wanna go!” I cried.

So strong arms lifted me into the boat.

Abrupt was the plunge of the old metal rod, I was hooke for life

Soon the smell of the trout, silver, slippery, bigger than the rest

Adult voices muffled but, one, one made sense

“Looks like George caught the biggest one.”

Quietly reading his Louis Lamour

Every so often his gruff rebuff

The man who had molded a young boy’s mind

Now suffers the pain he does not deserve

He waits . . . still accepting the child.

-George Ricks

I’m no great poet, but Dad’s willingness to bravely share his unique self makes me feel more brave in sharing my own writing. Bare with me, I’m going to share a poem I wrote.

Dad

A dad who was so frequently quirky and fun,

Encouraging, loving, and often out for a run.

He was there to support me through all kinds of events.

I’ll never forget him shouting, “C’mon, Jeff!” through that fence.

I may not have been half the runner he was,

But he cheered me on as though I were.

I think I finished somewhere around 11th place,

But you’d never know it from the smile on his face.

“The man who had molded a young boy’s mind

[Has suffered] pain he does not deserve”

As a father he was so supportive and kind,

Oft displaying so much courage and nerve.

A cancer has taken his life; cut it far too short,

But I’ll never forget my father’s love and support.

His pains are now gone, he’s finally at peace.

My love and appreciation for him will never cease.

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