That’s how Derek Zoolander pronounces it, so I’m going with that!
I have been in a funk. I really haven’t had the urge to write. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but I’ve found that I am just simply unmotivated.
“I am in a glass case of emotion,” if you will.
I did write something for my dad. His eulogy, (You Googly), which was both great and distressing. I wrote it and rewrote it and wrote it again. Then I walked up to the podium in the zen, New-Age, touchy-feely church where his memorial service was held, pulled my speech from my new black-suit coat pocket, and promptly began speaking from my heart, not my head.
That’s me in a nutshell, though. Why bother staying on script when I can just wing it and make a fool of myself? I never even opened the stupid mini-novel I worked so hard to write. I did manage to remember most of it. And I think by speaking from my memory it was better. I will post the original here, but what was not in the original is what I said at the start.
A sudden idea came to me as I walked up to face the somber crowd, and it was that none of us share fingerprints, but my dad and I don’t even share any DNA since I am adopted. Nevertheless his fingerprints are all over my life.
It’s hard to put all the memories and experiences from a lifetime into a few short pages, especially for someone like me who is so fond of words. My dad also loved language and he loved stories. I would like to share a few stories that stick out in my mind and help emphasize what Dad meant to me and how he helped shape my life.
When I was seven or eight, Dad found me dangling from my shoelace off the roof of our house. I had been certain that I could use the rope attached to the fig tree in our backyard to swing down to the ground like Luke Skywalker.
Luke didn’t have shoelaces.
I was hanging upside down and dad rescued me without a cross word. I could tell he was scared, so was I, but he just got a ladder and lifted me down with one hand, like a superhero, as if it was no big deal.
But it was.
I had seen the fear written on his face and now that I am a father I can say that I am familiar with the range of emotions he experienced that day. All we want is for our children to be safe and to know love. That’s what Dad wanted for me. And that’s what he gave me.
He always encouraged my creativity. He helped me film my own low-budget version of Star Wars, going so far as rigging a softball with a firecracker in an effort to recreate the destruction of the Death Star at the movie’s climax. And when I, the director and star, threw a tantrum because he didn’t cut when I yelled cut, well, he just took it in stride.
When I decided that I wanted to play guitar he never uttered a discouraging word. He and my mom made me work for it though. I saved my money and Dad contributed matching funds so that after a year I was able to walk into a pawn shop and lay my hands on my very first six-string. It was a big moment because I learned how great it feels to really earn something that you want.
Much later, when I was so sure of my own rock stardom that I wanted to drop out of college he never yelled. He just let me know that I would have to pay my own way in life. He also let me know that if I ever changed my mind he would help me attain an education. Of course, when I realized that the music business isn’t all it’s cracked up to be he never said I told you so. He kept his promise and gladly helped me get my Bachelor’s degree.
As many of you know, and can tell from my stories, my dad was a gentle and wise fellow. Yet, he didn’t always make great choices. After all, like the rest of us, he did stupid things when he was young. Maybe that prepared him for the stupid things I did when I was young.
He told me stories about jumping off barns, shooting at things in the woods, and getting stuck up to his elbows in the mud at the bottom of an Ohio pond. I would guess that my Uncle Jim has a long list of idiotic moments from their shared adolescence. I’m pretty certain most of them would involve fast cars, beer, and close calls.
Dad’s own mother had very rigid ideas about how to raise a child. Thankfully Dad didn’t follow suit. I am grateful to him for allowing me to form independent thoughts and views about the world; allowing me to succeed or fail in my own right; allowing me to pursue my passions to the greatest degree; all without judgment or scorn. He never shared his own childhood memories with me until much later, but now I see that they shaped how he fathered me.
He taught me about respect, discipline, hard work, and determination. He pushed me to be the best I could be and to never quit. He accepted my need to flirt with danger, but he did everything in his power to ensure that if I was determined to push the limits at least I would do it safely.
For instance, when I was 11 or 12, Dad and my Grandpa Donaldson—who called him Charlie, though I never understood why—taught me about gun safety one afternoon on a hillside farm in Ohio. There was no lecture; Dad just told me a story of how his friend had pointed a gun at him when they were kids. The kid insisted that it wasn’t loaded. Dad knew better. When the kid tried to prove it by pointing the gun at the radio the gun went off, destroying the radio. It could have been my dad.
Dad also let me drive for the first time on that farm and when I mowed down some of the corn grandpa wasn’t happy, but dad didn’t seem too upset. It was all part of the process. He wanted me to experience life to the fullest extent and he was willing to take calculated risks so that I would be prepared to do that.
Eventually, he taught me how to drive for real and I never ran over any more crops. I did, however, get my share of speeding tickets. When I had to go to court and pay the piper he was there, trying to hide the knowing smile of what it’s like to drive a car balls-out down the highway.
Dad taught me that you should always use a voltage tester to check for yourself that the power is indeed off when working with electricity. He electrocuted me once, in my own house. And then he did it again in his! My dad clearly taught me about unconditional love. I loved him without question, despite the occasional electrocution!
He was forgiving and from his example I learned to forgive. He was always kind to my friends and genuinely interested in what they had to say. He was generous and caring in a way that I will always try to emulate. He was a fantastic grandpa to Paige and Davis and he loved nothing more than simply being in their presence.
I loved my dad and there’s so much more I could say. In short, he was a great dad and a good man. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to feel his warmth. He told me, countless times, that he was proud of the man and father I have become. Yet, it is, in part, because of his influence and love that I am who I am. That’s the most important point. He helped shape my very being whether he knew it or not.
Last week, one of my coworkers stopped me to offer his condolences. I think his words are perfect for what I’m trying to say here. He told me he was sorry, but then he continued:
“You’re a good guy,” he said. “Your dad did a good job.”
He did do a good job. At the end of the day, or the end of a life, that’s all that really matters. I think my dad would be proud to know that other people think that he raised a good son.