I know you want some gadget or tool for tinkering for Father’s Day, but, let’s face it, we both know it’ll end up on a shelf. Ma will dust around it and mutter under her breath about another annoying tchotchke cluttering up the house (never mind her porcelain bunny collection). So, instead, I figured I’d write you a letter in a really public forum so you can show it to all your friends at the retirement community pub and brag about your son, the writer, which I know you love to do.
The last dozen or so years have been tough. Watching you fighting a losing battle with age and illness has been an exercise in humility, at best. The random dramatic texts and calls from Ma about the latest doctor visit and the next battery of tests—well, I’d be lying if I said I looked forward to those.
Your driving has evolved from “slow enough to drive Miss Daisy” to downright “menace on the asphalt.” The daily emails or calls while I’m in the middle of work (like you think I retired when you did) to chat about something else the president did that pissed you off drive me nuts. Your random Facebook and LinkedIn political diatribes give me migraines. Your Don Quixotian battle against the medical industry’s statistically biased reasons for not giving you a kidney just make me shake my head.
And yet, when I take a step back and forget for a second my own issues with it all—my own ego and approaching-middle-aged second adolescence—I’m moved. Because I realize, as I look at how many ways and how many times life knocks you down (hell, you’ve actually died, what, five times now?), you still get up.
Every. Single. Time. At an age when the fight seems to flicker out of most people, you’re just fighting harder. In so many ways, you’re tougher now than you were as a “go-to-hell G.I.” back in ’Nam.
Pop, I know there’s never enough time to get it all out, to say everything that we should say, and I know even if there was, we likely would skip around it talking about politics or football anyhow.
So I’ll just say this: Thank you.
Thank you for letting me fail. Thank you for challenging me to pick myself up again. Thank you for being morally incorruptible. Thank you for teaching me how to deal with pain. Thank you for showing me how to change a tire, for teaching me “lefty-loosey-righty-tighty,” for showing me how to splice a wire, how to use jumper cables, to open the door for a lady, to keep my guard up and my head on a swivel, that Mickey Mantle was the greatest baseball player of all time (even though it was Willie Mays), that it’s OK to call a professional but not to ask directions, and why John Wayne mattered.
Happy Father’s Day, Pop. Love ya.