It has been a long time since I posted anything substantive on this blog – literally years. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the most important is that I simply had no idea what to say. A lot happened in those years, my house and my relationships have changed. I have changed some as well. No doubt you will notice if you keep reading over time.
The good news is that from here forward, I think I might be blogging more. Not because I miss the process, but because I have started to feel like I have something to say. No promises, we will just see how it goes.
So why this morning? I couldn’t tell you. I think because it is fathers day.
For my whole life, Fathers day has been special to me. It is special to me because it has always been a day when I spent some time thinking about myself, and what kind of man I would (or have in later years) become.
In a way, I had the perfect father. Passing before I was born, my father never had a chance to be flawed in my eyes. I knew so little about him, but everyone – and I mean everyone – in my family has only spoken well of him in my presence, for my whole life. In a way, I think many of them are in the same boat as I – the circumstances were such that he had very little contact with my extended family before his passing.
Allow me to summarize for you exactly what I believe to be facts about my Father.
- His first name was Walter
- He was in the military at the time of his passing (Air Force)
- He and my mother had not been married long
- He passed in a car accident
- I have seen one photograph, and the impression I remember is of a fairly typical military man (short dark hair, longish face, “Buddy Holly” glasses)
- My mother was approximately in the last third of her pregnancy when he passed
As far as it goes – that is all I know in a biographical sense. We have never spoken of him in depth. It never seemed necessary. In the 46 years I have been alive now, I think I have spent significantly less than an hour in conversation on the topic with my family collectively.
The over-riding feeling I have when I think of my father is pride. The pride of a son in a military father who was so loved, made such an impression in the short time he was with his wife that she never again dated. A man who could simply, literally, not be replaced in even the smallest way.
My father never, ever disappointed me. He was never late for an important event, he forgot my birthday, unjustly punished me or hurt my feelings. He simply existed as an ideal.
Not as a saint, I might add… there were no maudlin recitations that started with “If your father was here” or “Your father would be so disappointed”. Not even a “Your father would be so proud”. The specter of my father was never invoked, never used as a lever – for good or ill. Thus he never achieved the status of a deity to me and I never felt he was sitting in judgment. Though to be honest I have been an atheist my entire life and thus the possibility of his judgment was remote in any case to my mind.
My point here is that as an ideal, my father was all I could ask. Devoted husband, good man and patriot but very human and real.
As dramatic as it would sound to say that I have spent my life trying to live up to his memory, I simply cannot because I have no such memory either of my own or passed on from others in any detail I could use as a model. Rather I have spent my life attempting to live up to my image of what a man should be. That image was influenced in large part by my father because I saw the shadow he cast on the people who knew him… and I wanted to be that kind of man.
What kind of shadow you ask? In my whole life, I have never seen or heard my mother cry over this loss. I have never once heard my mother complain about her fate. I have never once for even a moment felt that I was a burden. Not because the sorrow didn’t exist – but because, I believe, that my mother is just that awesome and determined to make the best of what they shared.
The shadow is of a man who can inspire that loyalty from a woman as amazing as I know my mother to be.
A shadow then, but not details. I wanted to be a good man, an admirable man… but it was wonderfully left up to me to decide for myself what those qualities meant. What an amazing gift I was given in that. I had the driving desire to be my best, but the free choice to discover for myself what I thought being my best meant.
Other influences when I was young? John Galt. Winston Churchill. Patton. Erwin Rommel. John Wayne (both in his movies and as a person). Leonidas I (the Spartan king later immortalized in the movie 300). Harry Seldon. Gandalf at times but honestly more Thorin. My grandfather. My uncle Bill. Later Roland and others.
Lest we forget – day to day, in my adult life the largest such influence has been the man I am proud to call my Sensei. There are few men I will bow to, and he is first among those. If I have a surrogate father, truly it is him.
All these are men who commanded the respect of other men. They tempered love with their beliefs and you always knew where they stood. You might disagree with them, but they were honest.
I have tried, imperfectly, to be that kind of man.
The term imperfectly is not rhetorical. I have failed to be, and act, my best more than once. Many times I emerged only slightly signed from my folly and for that I owe a debt to my family, house members and loyal friends. More often than I deserved they helped me weather my failings with kindness and love
Other times… I could not be spared. Most painfully at times I have failed people who deserved better of me. The price has been enormous. I have lost things, and more importantly people, that were precious to me. The ghosts of those failures still keep me awake for long hours sometimes – laughing and whispering in my ear until finally both they and I are so exhausted sleep brings silence. All I can do is work to be better, to be stronger, to be more.
Don’t get me wrong, on the whole, I love the hell out of me!
True, I stumble and fail. But far more often I stand true – true to my beliefs, true to my friends, true to my ideals. I am a good friend, I love simply and honestly, I am a good son, I am a loyal ally and a devoted student.
In short, I am a good man.
As a consequence I have the loyalty, friendship and love of some of the best people I have ever known on this Earth. More than that I have the fealty which is so dear to me from folks who know what the word means, and the added pleasure that comes from ownership.
To all those of you who trust in me, you have my gratitude and my promise that I continue to strive to achieve my best… not for your approval nor as repayment but because striving in this way is all I know how to do. It is the defining factor of who I am.
Finally, as a very non-traditional Daddy on fathers day, my thoughts and love to those who hold that very special place in my heart. Of all the things I have been called in my life, Daddy is the one that most inspires me.