Updated: Mar 27
Tribute To A Good Man
I’ve known a lot of good people in my life. People who have encouraged me, strengthened me, and helped me when I had nowhere to turn to. Out of all them-them, I don’t think I can say I appreciate anyone more than my dad.
I wish I had been inspired to write this for Father’s Day, but it took a conversation with my boss for it all to come together. Now, I’m not saying I have never appreciated all that he has done for me, but there are moments in life when we reflect and recall things we don’t always give much thought to. After talking with my boss it all suddenly fell into place.
The conversation made me appreciate the gifts and things I’ve inherited from him. Especially his creative nature and way of looking at the world. I remember watching remodel the house we grew up in. How he turned a dump into a work of art.
I remember the cedar paneling of the family room and realize why I love the smell so much. It’s the smell of home. It’s a reminder of how inventive my dad is as I recall the entertainment center he built into the stairs leading into the remodeled attic.
How he turned a useless space into a full bedroom, bathroom, closet, and office. How he built hidden compartments upstairs just because my brother and I thought it would be so cool. As a kid, I would often think there wasn’t anything he couldn’t build. In hindsight, that fact he was an engineer probably helped.
Even as I sit here writing, I can’t help but feel a sense of wonder in the process that led him to the decisions he would make. I often wonder if it’s similar to how I write and plan out my stories. I think watching my dad build and create things taught me how to look at everything from another angle, to form an image of what I was trying to see and build it piece by piece.
My dad wasn’t just a builder, as I think about it, he’s also my hero. I think because of the struggles he’s been through, it set the example for me of how I have to keep moving forward. I’ve seen him endure a lot, but he always comes out okay, no matter how tough it is. He’s a lot stronger than I think most people give him credit for.
My dad lost his father at a very young age. He had to grow up fast and be ‘that man of the house’ as he was often told. He had to grow up fast and learn how to manage things that most kids his age probably wouldn’t have had to do. Even with three older sisters he still had to step up.
He doesn’t talk about it much, if at all, but I’ve always gotten the impression that he felt it was his responsibility to take care of everything. That if he didn’t do it, no one else will. I think I get that from him too.
He would always talk, and still does, about responsibility. About being accountable for what you do and how it affects others. To think toward the horizon and consider the choices being made. “Life is a series of choices, Matt,” he often said back then. “Nothing is ever without one.”
I used to hate hearing that, but he was right. In life, we are always choosing something. Sometimes we are led down a path we never wanted to go or quite the opposite. Either way, we get to choose.
I remember the math arguments, something I think every parent can relate to. It’s something I look forward to having when I have kids of my own. On that day I look forward to seeing the smile on my dad’s face as he listens in.
I remember my dad, as an engineer, thinking how dumb my teachers were for making me do it their way instead of the ‘right’ way. We had so many arguments, but I smile when I think about it.
I think of all the things I appreciate from my dad, his love and compassion for others if probably the greatest gift I could have ever received. I have watched him give so selflessly to other people, even when it hurt him or when it was taken advantage of. Yet, he gave anyway. There were scars, but those scars never deterred him from doing the right thing. I admire that so much in him. He's probably the strongest person I know.
Even when my parents divorced, he fought so hard to win my mom back. He was like a knight on a quest. He gave everything and I learned what true love and sacrifice was. Though the quest ended, but not happily. Though, it taught me that love was worth fighting for at any cost. That it’s not some useless sham or pipedream. It taught me the real love still exists in this harsh world we live in.
When he met my stepmom and while I was resistant, I learned that there are such things as new beginnings. I watched him open his heart and love another person unconditionally once again.
In the years that followed I watched him grow and learned to appreciate how fortunate I was. Being a father isn’t an easy task. The world has made a living off making dads look like useless fools in television and movies. Good fathers are hard to find in this day and age, but they are out there. The best dads also make even greater granddad’s.
My dad and I have had our rough patches, but any healthy relationship with another human being is full of those moments. I remember a moment when my dad was looking over old yearbooks and reminiscing about the past. I remember sitting there listening to him talk about people he knew and the thought occurred to me. It was like a soft whisper that said: Remember this, mark it well.
I think it was the first time I really accepted the fact that he won’t be here forever and in the seclusion of my room, I cried. Not just about the idea of him being gone, but because in that instant I suddenly empathized with how time passes us by. That friends we have will eventually fade away like a vapor. That’s truly what life is, a vaporous mist with moments we should cherish at every opportunity. Family is no exception.
In the end, I’ve learned a lot from mad dad and while I’ve always been thankful, it’s funny how a simple conversation reminded me of the truly amazing things he’s done for me in my life. His strength, perseverance, character, and love were precious gifts that I hope to impart when I have kids of my own one day.