It’s a heavy number to look at, but, despite a few minor hiccups and a few extra pounds around the middle, he’s a healthy and active guy who is enjoying the fruits of retirement after a lot of years in the grind.
With Mom passing ten years ago this coming May, there is no one on this planet who I’ve been in a relationship with longer than my Dad. He was there when I took my first breath and he’ll be on the other side of the line bragging about the Florida weather when I call him later today.
“Oh… geez… it was so warm I could barely finish the back nine this morning. Still snowing up there, is it? Yeah, yeah… it was almost 60 here the other night. I almost had to put on jeans.”
Though we’ve got almost 40 years of history between us, the most amazing part about my relationship with my father is that it’s the one the has and continues to evolve the most.
I never had a bad relationship with Dad.
When we were little… it was the best. My Dad is funny. He’s outgoing. We were three boys less than two years apart in age and he let us be boys. We could wrestle. We could roughhouse. And, if it ever got to the point where two us needed to “have it out”, Dad would just let us settle it. Sure, he wasn’t going to let us really hurt one another, but he’d let it go to a point. Then when the dust settled, he’d hand out his version of justice. It was a simple and brilliant punishment for two boys who were just ready to tear each other’s heads off.
“Alright… I want you two to sit on the couch. Hold hands. Do not move from the couch. You’re free to go as soon as you give each other a kiss and tell your Brother that you love him.”
“Can’t we just get a spanking?”
“Nope. Brothers can fight, but Brothers love each other.”
The battles of will were legendary. We’d sit there for hours squeezing the other one’s hand until we were both numb. We weren’t caving. That was fine with Dad. He’d wait. Eventually, we’d fold.
He was tough… but there was always a reason… and it was always rooted in the right things.
I never had a bad relationship with Dad.
But, there was a long period of time where I didn’t have much of a relationship at all.
My folks split when I was about 10. I was too young to understand. Hell, I’m still too young to want to. We lived in Florida at the time and Mom packed us up and brought us back to Michigan.
To his credit, he tried. Dad always tried to be good at that version of parenting. It’s just not how he’s wired. Dad was just so different from the world we were growing up in away from him. He sold his business and moved back to Michigan, but it really was only successful in making us physically closer. We did some weekends or an occasional holiday. My older Brother even tried moving in for a little while. It just didn’t ever click.
We didn’t have a bad relationship because, back then, we barely had one at all.
As I got older…well… as we both got older… it started to change. As an adult, we started to talk more often. We started to get together more often. We started get to know each other again. There were a lot of holes in the years after the divorce. There were a lot of chapters in both of our lives that we never read. Despite the natural bond of blood and all the history, we were starting over.
By the time I had little ones calling me Dad, the Old Man and I were as close as we’d ever been. Every year since, we get a little closer. We go away on a “guys’ golf trip” every year now and in just those couple of days, I’m learning more about where I came from then the teenage version of me every thought I would.
In my “formative years” my Dad wasn’t around to teach me to change the oil or build a bird house. He didn’t help me with my homework or give me sage advice the first time I got my heart broken. That was our relationship then. There’s no blame. There’s no ill will. That’s just how life went. But, it’s our relationship today, that has given me more than a few marketable skills and a well-timed “atta boy” ever could.
It’s only in getting to know my Dad as man and a father myself that I’ve learned the most important lessons. I’ve come to realize that my Dad and I are so very different in many, many ways, but exactly alike in perhaps the most important. When it comes to being a father, while the results aren’t always perfect, we’re both just doing the best that we can.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
While my words today are certainly personal, I think there’s something in there for some of you as well. We all have important relationships in our lives that we’ve allowed to fade. Maybe it’s a parent… a sibling… a friend. We’re all very quick to say “it’s never too late”. But, I’ve got to tell you, besides the obvious fact of life that… yeah… there is a point where it’s too late… there’s one I can’t help but focus on. Repairing a broken relationship a year from now is great…. but doing it today is even better.
If the relationship is worth fixing, it’s worth fixing now.