Archive for June, 2020

A Different Type of Father’s Day

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

How lucky have I been over the years? There isn’t enough paper in the world to list all of the ways I have been blessed with so much good will. However, I can thank both of my parents for every bit of my happiness and the good fortune I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Sometimes I laugh on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when people express their gratitude for their parents. I often wonder if they do the same thing every day of their lives. I would guess that far too many people take their parents’ influence for granted. Although some children don’t follow in their parents’ footsteps, many apples fall directly under the tree — even if they roll a few feet from the base of it. I could never live up to the example my parents set for me, and it would be foolish to pretend their care for me didn’t mold me into who I am today.

I think I saw something on social media today from one of my former classmates, and it said it was the 33rd anniversary of our graduation from high school. Many of you can stop doing the math right now. I’m a month shy of my 51st birthday. Anyhow, before I graduated I chose a quote to put next to my senior picture in the yearbook. It read: College; To some day be as good of a father as my father has been to me.

Well, I accomplished the first goal and finished my undergraduate degree on time. Although I might have gained knowledge in my college career, I don’t feel any smarter for the time I spent in school after my high school days came to an end. When people ask me what I gained from college, I tell them that I learned how to grow up and live on my own. I learned the importance of paying bills, managing my time, balancing daily duties, and finding the time to decompress. Looking back on it, I’m not sure I would have done the same thing if I had to go back in time. I probably would’ve taken up a trade and began my journey into adulthood four years earlier than I did.

Unforgettable Moments in College

While I have an arm’s-length of incredible memories from my time in college, there are a few that stand out above all others. On a Saturday in mid-March one year, I was playing basketball in the bubble at Oneonta State when I saw my mother walk through the door. She was with one of her friends and told me she was just coming to check on me. She had found one of my roommates, and he told her where she could find me. A simple hug and the ability to see my mother’s concern overwhelmed me. It’s something I haven’t forgot since that day, and I will never forget it as long as my mind stays with me.

I hear a lot of people from my parents’ generation talking about what they were doing when John F. Kennedy got assassinated. While the relevance isn’t quite the same, I know many people in my generation who follow sports know where they were when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas. I do, too.

My mom had gone away for the weekend to Vermont with her friends to go cross-country skiing with her friends, so my dad decided to come visit me and my friends in Oneonta. He offered to take us to Binghamton to watch the Adirondack Red Wings take on the Binghamton Whalers in an AHL hockey game.

On our way back to Oneonta, the radio was filled with static, but we thought we heard that Mike Tyson had been knocked out. There were five of us in the car, and nobody believed it. We figured it was a “Saturday Night Live” joke or something of that sort. When we neared the campus, we heard it again. With the ferociousness of Tyson in all of his previous fights, it was unfathomable that a no-name had knocked him out. Tyson’s life would never be the same … and a few minutes later, neither would mine.

Dad rolled up to the front door of my Hays Hall dormitory, and my friends unloaded from the car. I sat for a few minutes to talk Dad. I offered him a place to stay in my room, so he could go home the next day. He declined and told me he would be okay to drive home that night. As I grabbed the door handle and started to get out, he cleared is throat and said, “I love you, bud.”

I could see a tear rolling down his face, and it made me react the same way. I told him I loved him and got out of the car. I wished him a safe trip home and stood in the silence of the night in front of the dorm. Tears streamed from my face, and I knew I would have to compose myself before going inside and gathering with my friends. My father never showed much emotion and has always had a hard time with it. I believe that’s all part of growing up during tough times on a farm, where your family depends on you, even when you are a child. It was the first time I ever remember Dad telling me he loved me, and I still think about it daily. I never see a video clip of Mike Tyson without thinking about it. Amazingly, I’m sure he probably doesn’t recall it at all. Sometimes, something incredibly small can stay with a person for an entire lifetime. The small moments should be cherished on your journey through life. Every Father’s Day, I am thankful for that trip to Binghamton on the night Mike Tyson was knocked out for his first professional loss.

Back to the Farm

Dad grew up on a farm. Before he hit double digits, he had more responsibilities than many adults. He wasn’t asked to work on the farm. He was expected to work on the farm. There weren’t any days off, and there weren’t any excuses that were acceptable to keep him from heading to the barn every day before school and then again when he returned from school. Although he was smart, his priority was the farm and his family. He couldn’t put all of his efforts into school. It just wasn’t possible for the time period and the life his family lived.

He always remembered those days and made sure I didn’t have to experience anything like that. He always wanted to play sports and never had the ability to do so because of farm chores. That’s why he made sure I played any sport I wanted to play. He encouraged my growth in anything that interested me. He also wanted me to be educated, but he didn’t force me to go to college. Actually, he never said much about anything I wanted to do. He just wanted me to be happy and have an easier life than he had. He wanted me to carve my own path and follow it to wherever it would take me.

I’ve watched many people travel along the roads of life, and the road my father traveled is always impressive when I dissect it. Although he was president of the Future Farmers of America organization in high school and got accepted at Cobleskill College for agriculture, he chose to go in another direction. Starting a family at 18 and having me, the third child, at 22, he knew he had to find financial stability. He had to leave the farm, and he chose to work at one of the local factories. He worked his way through the ranks and made an incredibly good life for himself. His work ethic that came from all of the hard farm work over the years transferred into his new occupation. There was never a time to slack off, and he always gave 100% in everything he did. I feel fortunate to have inherited some of his work ethic and other qualities. It’s not anything he taught me with words. I watched him from afar and learned that excuses are not valid. If someone asks you to do something, you just do it. If you’re supposed to be at work at 7:00 a.m., there’s no reason to be late. Thanks, Dad, for setting the example you set as I was growing up.

From Dad to Friend

There’s a fine line between being a parent and being a friend. Parents need to establish the rules, and the children needs to follow the rules and learn about boundaries. However, as children become adults, the relationship can change. My relationship definitely changed.

My father’s passions became mine, and my passions became his passions. We have traveled all over the country doing the things that bring us the most happiness. We’ve spent crisp mornings on creek banks in October hauling in salmon. We’ve spent time in raging rainstorms trying to catch up to big bucks. We’ve trekked on snowshoes through blizzards to hunt deer. We’ve driven to Florida and back in a weekend to shoot in an archery tournament. We’ve stood on the top step of the podium to receive world championship awards in different organizations, and we’ve done the same thing in the same organization to receive our national championship awards. We’ve sat in silence and watched sporting events on the TV in the living room. We’ve also sat in the house that Ruth built to watch legendary baseball players start and end their careers. We’ve done all of these things as father and son — and best friends.

I remember the camping trips throughout the summers when I was growing up. I remember the motorcycle rides to go trout fishing in the Adirondacks. I remember paddling canoes across lakes. I remember fishing in bays and outlets for bass. I remember sitting under the bridge in the middle of the night to catch bullhead. I remember that Dad was at every single high school baseball game I ever played in whether it was home or away.

When I think about fatherhood and what it means, I’m not sure I can base it on what my father did for me. I believe he went far beyond what most normal dads do for their sons. He didn’t set a good example for other fathers because not many others could ever do so much for their children and expect absolutely nothing in return. His selflessness has allowed me to climb rugged mountains. I’ve hit the bottom of valleys more than a time or two, and he has always thrown me into his backpack and carried me back to the summit to get a different view. He has helped me refresh my mind and he has given me the tools to build a good life. He has welcomed all of my friends and acquaintances into our family like they are is own children. He has show others how to live a good life and chase their dreams. He has had a significant influence on almost all of my friends. Could anyone ask for more than that out of a dad?

I could go on for days on end about all of my experiences, and it still wouldn’t do them justice. I won the father lottery — and lifetime lottery –and I would rather win that lottery than any mega-millions cash prize that would set me up for life.

Thanks for everything you’ve given so freely over the years, Dad. In some small way, I hope I’ve carried on our family name by learning and listening along the way. Get better soon and keep fighting the fight. We need to fling some more arrows, make fun of Brian for coming back to the tent after emptying his quiver again, and chase whitetails across the Midwest and in the Adirondacks. Let’s get to it.