The Gap of Imperfection

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

Which fall shows should totally be canceled already?


I looked at the prompt for today’s post and immediately dismissed it as boring and uninteresting. Who cares about what other people think about TV shows? There couldn’t be a more useless topic about which to discuss, let alone write.

So in the midst of my, “what the *bleep* do I write about now?” mental moment, I picked up a book I keep on my desk, opened it to a random page, and let the gods of the blogosphere direct me on my writing journey this evening.

The book is called 642 Things to Write About, a collection of writing prompts I picked up from the sale table at Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago. The topic to which I was serendipitously led is “A conversation you regret never having.”


One of the weirdest moments in my life was when I came to view my father as my peer. I think I was about twenty-two years old, and we were on the phone just talking about stuff, the way you would with a good friend. The formality I carried in my eyes as a child was gone. I no longer looked at my dad with the “I have to respect him or else” perspective that rightfully dominated my youth. Instead, it was a pleasure speaking to him about soccer and power tools and just life in general. It was also a coming of age moment for me, and I remember that moment as a pivotal one which marked my development as a man in the eyes of my father.

To provide some better context, my father was forty years-old when I was born. I had no appreciation for how old he was relative to the dads of other kids my age until I got to college. Whereas the fathers of my peers were established in their careers and still spry and lively, my father was approaching retirement age by the time I graduated from college.

It came to me all of the sudden, in a flash, the understanding of all my father – and mother – did for my brother and me to provide us with housing, food, and an education. We were, by textbook standards, poor growing up. My parents’ household income in the 80’s was below $20k per year. Still, my brother and I attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade, and my parents managed to provide for us while my brother was off at Purdue and I was at Tulane. Don’t ask me how they did it, but they did.

So there I was, on the phone with the man that used to be my dad, but was now my peer and best friend. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t discuss with my dad. There wasn’t a topic that was off limits or out of bounds. Obviously, he knew everything about me since the day I was born, and I quickly grew to understand and appreciate why it was everyone who knew my dad seemed to like him so much. My father was funny, witty, and clever. More importantly, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was the first to offer up help, and despite his many, many flaws, he was the man towards which everyone seemed to gravitate.

My dad told me many things in my lifetime. He was a constant fountain of wisdom, direction, and encouragement. I can say with absolute certainty there was one phrase my father never uttered to me; “Son, I am disappointed in you.” I was a straight-A student growing up. I was a scholar athlete. Not only did I excel in the classroom, I excelled on the field as well. He was at every little league football game and at every track meet. Even my physical traits came from his side of the family. I’m not saying I was his favorite, but I was his favorite.

There’s a clear and obvious reason I never heard my father say, “Son, I am disappointed in you.” It’s because I lied to him on his deathbed.

In 2002, my father was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a type of Cancer brought on by exposure to Asbestos. At that time, I didn’t know he’d only have two more years to live. At that time, he didn’t know I was several months into having an affair.

My dad was rather humble, but there was one thing he touted and in which he took pride more than anything else; he loved my mom with all he had. My dad would tell me stories about when he first met my mom, and how being married to her changed his life. And he would always wrap up his stories with the phrase, “and I never cheated on your mother.” Apparently, in his younger days, my dad bore a resemblance to Elvis Presley and had several women come on to him after he was married. He took pride in turning them down and preserving the solemn oath he took when he pledged his love to my mom.

‘A conversation you regret never having’. I think it’s obvious where you see this blog post going.

As I saw chemotherapy reduce my father to – quite literally – half the man he used to be, I buried my burden deep inside my heart. As I stayed with him during his final days and saw him drift in and out of lucidity, the morphine shielding him from the pain but also robbing me of the precious time left with my father, I made the conscious decision to not bear my soul to my dad, to not be honest with my best friend.

I hid in my own shame because I couldn’t bear the thought of my father being disappointed in me. I was thirty-one years old, my father was near death, and all I could think about was protecting my feigned innocence.

Do I regret never having that conversation with my father? I do. Every fucking day I do.


In 2011, I finally had that conversation with my father. It was in the form of a submission for a the Florida Writer’s Association collection of stories told exclusively in dialogue format. My submission was selected for the book, appropriately titled “Let’s Talk.” More importantly, it helped put at ease the weight of never having told my dad about my infidelity. Although I wish I could go back and have that conversation with him, I know he’s in Heaven looking down at me, knowing and understanding what it is I went through, as well as the growth I’ve experienced since then. And in my heart, despite all my many, many flaws, I know he’s still proud of me.


nablopomo

Three Six Five Four

You’ve heard the old cliché: Time to close this chapter in your life.

Have you ever had a season in your lifetime that was more like closing a book …. and moving on to a new book ….. in a different library ….. on the other side of town? That was my 2004.

I’m a big fan of milestones. It’s amazing to me that in January, I will hit the mark of having lived in Tampa longer than I did in my hometown (17 year, 6 months). Last June, I celebrated my five year wedding anniversary with my wife. Just last month, I reached seventeen years of service with my employer. It really is amazing how time flies.

But now as we’ve reached the end of Summer 2014, I am hitting a new set of decade-long milestones in my life. The second-half of 2004 was brutal for me. In addition to dealing with the savaging hurricanes that pummeled Florida that summer, my life was – for lack of a better phrase – in a free fall.

My marriage had dissolved. I was living at my friend’s house, getting by on a steady diet of beer (as in cases) and no sleep. I was unsure of what each day would bring, and, in poetic parallel to Mother Nature’s wrath, everything seemed like a dizzying whirlwind.

As if that weren’t enough, it was 10 years ago yesterday – 3,654 days – that my father passed away.

His passing was expected. Having been diagnosed in the summer of 2002 with Mesothelioma, we knew the outlook for my dad’s life was not a long term one. He underwent chemo and battled his cancer, along the way prolonging his life just enough to sneak in some extra memories with his grand children. I remember shortly after his diagnosis he and I went out for beers, no longer sharing a father-son relationship, but rather one of friends. For one night, we were drinking buddies, and I remember laughing at the fact I out-drank my dad and had to proverbially carry him home.

Losing my dad was tough. In the time following his death, I’d still pick up the phone to call him during Miami Dolphins games. As my kids took up recreational soccer, I’d anguish inside at the fact he was no longer around to see them play. My mentor for all things DIY was gone. I didn’t just lose my dad. I lost my friend and my hero. Although the memory of my dad still influences me and what I write, it’s not the same as if he were still alive.

They say time heals all wounds. There is some truth to that. Wounds do heal, but some wounds never disappear. After ten years, I can still see in me the void that exists with the absence of my father. My life is amazingly better today than it was at this time ten years ago (a testament to God’s amazing grace and His ability to put us back together). But I still miss my dad, and I am saddened that he never got to know the me I am today. I know he was proud of me, but the me he knew in his final days was a lie. I showed him a facade to keep him from seeing the lying, cheating, and broken man I was at that time.

I hope that when it comes time for us to meet again in Heaven, he’ll meet me with a hug and with the words, “You did good, son.” The book of Matthew teaches us to store our treasures in Heaven. In trying to be the best dad to my kids that I possibly can be, I like to think I’m doing just that. 

My eulogy for my father

Dad

Lucky 13

Thirteen years ago today, my son Daniel came into this world. It’s been an interesting journey, watching him grow from being a little boy into the young man he is today. Although he is my second child, there is something wholly unique about having a son (in much the same way the relationship I share with my daughter is wholly unique).

With Danny, I see so much I want for him in terms of providing the right guidance in his life. With all apologies for the stereotypes, there’s a sense of recklessness towards which the male species tends to gravitate, and when I look at my son, one of my first thoughts is to ensure his is a restrained recklessness. My other thought is to ensure that his dependence is not on me or his mother, but rather on God.

I used to fill my thoughts with regards to my son with things like where will he go to college or what type of person will he marry or will he be successful in his career. I used to fall back on the cliché of, “as long as he’s healthy and happy.” That is still true for the most part. Bet when it comes to my kids, so long as they are right with God, everything else will fall into place.

Specific to my son, I understand it’s my responsibility to lead by example. If I want my son to be a man of God, then I need to be one first and foremost. I’ve written before about my faith journey and how much I’ve grown spiritually in the last five years. I am confident that I am setting a good example for Daniel, and I pray that he views me as a role model when it comes to having a relationship in and with Christ.

Thirteen is a milestone for kids. I don’t know if it’s as big for girls as it is for boys – I think girls have their eyes set on fifteen or sixteen, depending on the culture in which they’re raised – but I remember turning thirteen as being a big deal for me. Teenager. No longer a ‘little kid’. Rather an adolescent on the path to manhood. Being thirteen was a fun age for me, and I pray it’s equally filled with excellent memories for my son.

The number 13 gets a bad rap in terms of luck and superstition. I’m sure that won’t be the case for my little young man.

Happy birthday, Danny.

Daniel

 

Daniel

 

Daniel

 

Daniel

My Struggle (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

There is a lot of struggle at the core of the Wild at Heart Boot Camp. Much of that struggle deals with the issue of masculine abandonment from father to son. John Eldredge makes the following statement: Only masculinity can bestow masculinity. Even Jesus received this validation from his Father when he was baptized in the Jordan River.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17 (NIV)

The struggle I face is somewhat the opposite. One of the many blessings I’ve always maintained in my heart is that my father, as flawed as he was, always gave me love and validation. My dad was a short-tempered alcoholic, and even when he got sober – sober because his doctor told him, “You can keep drinking and die in six months, or you can stop drinking right now and watch your kids grow up” – my father always set the bar very high for my brother and me.

My dad pushed me to excel, but he never hesitated to tell me he loved me. I’ve sat and pondered, and I cannot recall a moment when my dad ever told me he was disappointed with me. Coming from a man who was abandoned by his own father at the age of fourteen, the fact my dad’s heart overflowed with love towards me is nothing short of a miracle.

As I wrote in the eulogy for my father, I can only hope to be half the dad to my kids as my father was to me. I look at the relationship I share with my son, and I pray that I am bestowing on my son the same love and validation my father gave to me. I like to think I am doing a good job, but I am also terrified that I will somehow mess up along the way. My journey with Christ is as much about setting true both my children’s hearts as it is about setting true my own.

ESPN personality Colin Cowherd says that once your kids get to the age of about thirteen or fourteen, you pretty much stop being a parent and you’re basically a consultant. Teens and pre-teens are going to do what they want, and I pray the foundation my ex-wife and I have laid out, along with the amazing job my wife has done in her role as step-mom, will allow my children to make good and sound decisions in their lives.

Going forward, I hope I can ‘consult’ for my children by living a life they wish to model. I hope to live a life centered in God’s love, rooted in His truth, and reflective of His amazing grace towards everyone. By being the best Christ follower I can be, I know I am doing what I can to be the best father I can be.

 

Dan & Me

Tools and Time Travel

Eight years. Two terms for a President. Two thousand nine hundred twenty days.

Come Monday, a day on which most people in our country will be celebrating not having to be at work, it will have been eight years since my father passed away. This Labor Day will mean for me not only laboring through the completion of household projects, but also laboring with the reality I’ve been without my dad for eight long years.

Truth be told, I hadn’t really thought about it much. That is, until this morning.

With a laundry list of projects for this weekend, several of which will require me to hack my way through novice carpentry work, I perused Craigslist earlier in the week for a miter saw. It was one of those situations where I didn’t really NEED the saw, but I desperately WANTED the saw in order to make easier the tasks I had on my list to complete.

As divine intervention would have it, the first listing was for a 10” Craftsman miter saw in excellent condition. Clean, well maintained, and only one owner who was selling it because he had upgraded to a larger and more versatile saw. I called the number in the ad and the older gentleman who answered told me it was still available. We arranged for me to pick it up from his place early on Saturday morning.

I pulled into his property in Zephyrhills and an elderly woman, whom I can only assume is his wife, pointed as she yelled, “He’s in his shed.” I thanked her with a wave and proceeded to the work shed as she had directed. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. I could hear the hum of a motor inside. As I peered through the window, I saw an elderly gentleman vacuuming his work area, his hearing aids nestled tightly in his ears.  There was no way he was going to hear me knocking, so I stood and waited patiently as he finished his tidying.

The hum of the vacuum stopped and I knocked again. A rustic voice hollered, “Come on in.” I opened the door, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

I stepped into a portal that took me back in time. Back to my childhood and into the work shed I helped my father build in the summer of 1988. Back to the Saturdays when I was forced to be my father’s assistant, dreading having to sweat and toil as he crafted solutions for everyday problems that arose around the house, all the while not realizing I was actually apprenticing for life as an adult.

Before me stood a man, not very tall but clearly a giant in terms of his knowledge and abilities. His work shed was immaculate. His tools organized and well kept. The shelves and workbenches were the products of his own labor, and his Dickie’s coveralls were the embodiment of every man who has ever influenced what little blue-collar abilities I possess.

For a brief moment in time, I was reunited with my dad. Through the smells of sawdust and engine oil. By the sights of tool boxes and wrench sets. In the sound of a circular saw kick starting into action, as if it were cutting a seam into the past, one through which I could see my father smiling back at me.

The gentleman proceeded to explain all the features of the saw, but I wasn’t really listening. I was lost in how surreal that moment was, my mind adrift in the memories of all those hours shared with my dad, laboring, sweating, creating, and laughing. Scenes from my youth time-lapsed in my head, as the little boy who would drink Kool-Aid under the tree as his father enjoyed a Budweiser grew up to relish the moment when he was finally able to share a cold one with his old man. A parent became a peer, a father became a friend.

I paid the gentleman for the saw, thanked him, and loaded it in my truck. I glanced up at the sun that had just started to break through the fog and haze of the morning, and I smiled as I thanked my dad for continuing to watch over me from up above.

Then I got in my truck and cried all the way home.

096/365 Setting the Standard

I’ve written before about how I feel my vocation in life is to be an exceptional father. It’s something I feel I am blessed to be able to recognize as the calling that God wants me to follow.

That being said, I know I continue to stumble along the way as a dad. Not every moment is perfect, but I like to think I am not only doing the best I can, but also getting better at it every day.

As a blogger, one of the most fun things about writing is reading other bloggers’ work, connecting with them online, and engaging with them as part of this cyber-community. Through my growth group at church, I was introduced to the writing of Courtney Peterson. She happens to be the daughter of Renee and Mark Peterson, the couple who host our growth group every week in their home.

In perusing Courtney’s awesome work, I came across a post she wrote for Father’s Day last year. It left me speechless, and I immediately new THAT was my new standard for being a dad. It’s tough to measure or quantify your success as a parent, but if you have your child write you something like Courtney did for her dad, then you know you’ve done something amazingly right.

So to commend my friend Mark, I creepily stole ‘borrowed’ a picture from his Facebook of him with his daughter Courtney. Well done, Mr. Peterson. Well done indeed!

 

Panic Time

Random Writers: Write about the last time you listened to the sound of your own breathing.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

The sound of my heart is deafening as I sit and wait.

“C’mon. C’MON!”

My hands slapped the steering wheel out of frustration as the driver in front of me, lost in her own digital iWorld, didn’t notice the red turn arrow was now green, and we both missed our opportunity to make the turn.

Another 90 seconds I won’t get back as I have to sit here and watch car after car go by, each individual one step closer to their destination while I sit here like a prisoner in solitary confinement just itching to get out.

The anxiety weighs on me like the gravity on Jupiter. I think about the look on her face and I feel nauseas. Her words ring in my ears with that pitchy whine that discloses the depth of her disappointment.

“But I told you not to forget!” A tear escapes her eye and serves as an emphatic exclamation point to the emotion spilling out of her. An emotion for which I am the cause.

This fucking light. This fucking traffic. This fucking construction. I look for places and things towards which I can channel my blame. Targets to be the recipients of my anger. But I know the blame is all mine, and I can only be angry at myself.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

Louder, harder, and faster now. I take a deep breath, exhaling in frustration with a sound that seems to roar like a 747 upon takeoff. I’m reminded how the last time I listened to my own breathing, I was meditating and reflecting, lost in my own introspection as I prepared to communicate with God. There is no reason to relax now, although I am conversing with God, and the conversation is furiously one-sided.

“Please let me get back on time. Please. PLEASE!”

I’ve prided myself on being the dad that always comes through. Always being there when my baby girl needed me. Having forethought and being proactive, so much so that I could anticipate my daughter’s needs and deliver a solution before she could even ask for one.

But that’s not the case right now. Right now, I’m just trying to dig myself out of the hole I created with my own negligence.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

Green arrow. My foot slams on the accelerator. My inner nerd yells, “Punch it, Chewie!” I might have a chance just yet.

As I race back into my house, picking up the bag of my daughter’s soccer gear, the gear she needs to play goalie for her middle school team, the bag she told me ad nasueum NOT to forget, I glance at my watch and do some quick math.

Twenty-seven minutes. That’s plenty of time to get back to the field. Even in this traffic. Even with this construction. Even with these idiots and the precious little iWorld they inhabit.

My breaths are now short and rhythmic pants that escape my lungs with the fluidity of a Native American dancing around a camp fire. My heartbeat provides the percussion that augments her dance.

“I still have time. I can do this.”

It appears God has listened to my selfish pleas. Like the Red Sea before Moses, the traffic ahead of me seems to move out of my way. My temptation to drive faster is tempered by the fleeting moment of reason that reminds me a speeding ticket would result with 100% certainty my failing to make up for my previous error.

I pull into the parking lot and find a spot, and although I do so in a sane and normal fashion, in my head it plays out like a scene from an action movie. Tires squealing, my truck threatening to tip over from the 180 degree, stunt-driver move I just completed. Nothing to see except a dazzling cloud of white smoke, out from which I explode in brilliant Baywatch slow motion, my daughter’s soccer bag clutched firmly in my hand.

I race to the field. My daughter is standing. Waving. Waiting.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

I extend out my arm, handing her the bag, and casting away the shackles of kryptonite that sucked away my Super Dad powers the previous hour. Triumphant once again, I await a rambunctious and enthused response from my daughter, one filled with joy and appreciation. One that would erase the disappointment I bestowed upon her, and restore me back to the pantheon of greatness in my daughter’s eyes.

With barely a glance and a shrug of the shoulders, my daughter simultaneously grabs the bag and proceeds to run in the opposite direction, much like the sprinter on a relay team would accept the baton from her teammate. I faintly make out my daughter saying, “Thanks, daddy.”

I hear the sound of my breathing once again.

*sigh*