Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Only Son of a Horse Whisperer!

Although we always embraced when I visited and I always knew he was proud of me, I didn’t truly stop trying to protect the world from my Dad until I was more than three-quarters through my over 50 years of knowing him.

Watching him interact one afternoon with some unexpected guests who had dropped by his Pacific Northwest home during one of my all too infrequent and quick visits from Alaska, I had an epiphany. He was who he was and I no longer had to feel embarrassed by his intensity or verbally protect others from him.00263_p_10aeuyf6sw0394_b

That epiphany translated into a full paradigm shift later that afternoon when we took a rare walk together, side by side, and then later while playing catch with a baseball which we hadn’t done since I was 16. Distractions always made it easier for both us to share our feelings.

We were always affectionate in my family when I was growing up. We often expressed love, especially on departures or when we always kissed goodnight and this included even my Father until I turned 12 when he sensed correctly that this pre-teen no longer found it “cool.”

But those are different than the feelings we exchanged that day during the walk and while playing catch. That day we each drilled down deep through feelings of hurt and shame and regret and reconciliation.

I visited him more frequently from then on, always steering clear of controversy, unless wrapped in good-natured kidding; and I still remember his face, his eyes and his bear hug that seemed to last forever the morning following 9/11 when planes were finally permitted to resume flying and I returned home to Durham, never to see him alive again. I retraced that flight back West before month’s end to speak at his funeral.

Looking back now from eyes that are six decades old, I realize he was not only passionate and tough and argumentative and demanding but he was also a man who loved and sacrificed for his family, who launched the steep trajectory of our social mobility at the expense of his own.

His fingerprints are on anything with which I may be credited and I see him in the self-reliant determination and principled-intellectual quickness of one granddaughter, my daughter and only child – a single-mom-lawyer and in the horse whisperer gifts of another granddaughter and the reasoned-clarity of what’s right and wrong inherited by both.

I see him in the strong opinions and practical-intellectual clarity of one grandson, the ready management skills of another and in the Doctorate Degrees achieved by both. I see his project management skills and directness in another grandson, his entrepreneurial roots in another, his stoic compassion in the letters home from his youngest and in the emerging traits including athleticism of his five, soon-to-be six great-grandchildren.

Of course, if he were alive, he’d pull back the left corner of his mouth while twisting his nose to the right and fuss with my assessment a bit just to make sure I had good rationale to back up my sentimentality.

We miss him every day. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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