Thursday, May 18, 2006

67. Tell Dad you love him now

If there is a song that puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it, it is "Cats in the Cradle." It is the music, the lyrics and, most significantly, the message. For me, and surely many others, it is a true account of time, growing up and relationships. It is about life and understanding how quickly life can get away from you.

The story, if it needs to be told, is that of a young father that has difficulty making time for his son. There were, "planes to catch and bills to pay." However, despite missing his father, the son takes his disappointment in stride- pledging that when he grows up that he is going to be like his Dad. Later in life, indeed, the tables turn. The father wants to spend time with his son, as the son replies, "What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys." Finally, in retirement, the father realizes that when his son still is not available (job's a hassle and the kids got the flu), he has grown up just like him.

The relationship certainly held true in the relationship with my father. Growing up, I wanted more time with him than he could spare, and before he passed, he had more time available than I could manage. My father did spend a lot of time with me and my family, so I cannot say that I grew up without him- but as a kid you do not understand the affect eight hours in a factory can have on someone. After my father retired, he seemed to love late night philosophical debates- even if we held opposing views on a number of issues. It is a little strange that growing up he answered all my questions and in the end, I spent my time listening to his theories.

I never appreciated what my father accomplished until considerably after his death. He had an eight-grade education and worked at General Motors all of his life. He grew up in the city, the youngest of nine children, without a mother. Later he picked up his young family and moved west to the country where he tried his hand at farming before opening up several small businesses. Often embarrassed in his difficulty with spelling and math, I never realized how ambitious he was. He was a risk-taker that never let his lack of "credentials" hold him back. As a businessman, he knew people. He knew how to talk to his customers, what they wanted and he always showed his appreciation for their support.

As a family, we had the usual peaks and valleys that were not short on unforgettable moments. We were a sports-oriented family that spent a lot of time on the baseball diamond and football field. Together we shared the heartbreak of Cleveland sports teams, comforted only by Mom's traditional homemade pizza. In our attempt at farming, we raised cows, pigs and chickens- sometimes chasing them down when they got out at 3:00 a.m. or rescuing them when they got stuck on the frozen pond. Finally, we worked hard to start and manage our family businesses.

There is never enough time; my father passed at the young age of 55. He did not see me earn my master's degree, receive my license in healthcare administration, coach high school baseball or read anything I wrote. He visited our house just once and he will never know his grandchildren- if we ever have kids. With time on his side, he would still be involved in my life. He would have told me how to coach and on what subject to write my columns. We would still have disagreed on a number of issues, and he would have frustrated me- but like anyone who has lost someone, I would welcome that frustration now.

They say time is measured in moments, not time. It is amazing how fast time passes. It seems like he has been gone forever.

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