Am I gone already?

It’s New Year’s Eve 2016. We have a day of food and football planned. Melissa went first for the shower. As my turn approached, I walked through the bathroom into our closet, emerging moments later in only my underwear and t-shirt. It was then that Melissa asked “where are you going?”. There was just a hint of panic in her voice that I didn’t notice immediately but the question did make me laugh. Where am I going in my underwear? Well, to the dirty clothes hamper to drop off these undergarments before I get in the shower, that’s where. I asked if she was worried that this was the moment I cracked. Has she just been waiting for the day that I hit the back door in some state of undress to wander around the neighborhood, mumbling about this or that until someone called to let her know I was scaring their kids. As I stepped into the shower, we were both laughing to the point of tears, I suggested she put me in a home before it got too bad.

As the laughing subsided, that slight panic in her voice played back in my head and a more frightening thought occurred to me. Am I already gone? Was the panic in her voice well-earned? Maybe I slipped off months or years ago and it’s now a constant battle for her to keep up with me as it was with the kids when they were young. I wouldn’t know that my mind had gone, would I? Maybe today was just one of those lucid moments that dementia cruelly allows only serving to remind the loved ones of those afflicted how much has been lost.

As I sat to write this (at least I think I’m writing, I might be walking around in my underwear mumbling) the scenario got more concerning. Am I 49 years old or 59? Did I lose my mind a decade ago or only yesterday? If I am lost, it’s not bad at all for me. It seems like I keep myself busy with work. I enjoy my coffee and whiskey, and I still like bicycles. Melissa and I are happy together. As in love today after 26 years of marriage than ever … but is that our reality? Is her life actually quite different? Is it a burdensome balance between working to provide for us and caring for her husband who can no longer be left alone or care for himself. We’ve known for some time that, from a financial stand point, we’d never have the carefree retirement years couples dream of but this would be completely different. Forget traveling to see the grandkids, she’s having to pay the bills and raise a wholly different type of dependent.

So that went south quickly. I sure hope that’s not the case. I hope I’m still here. If I’m not, I’m sorry for my wife and I hope it doesn’t last too long. Happy New Year!

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Underestimated Glory

Disclaimer: Details fade over time and it is likely that some or all of the details of this story are off, out of place, or completely made up. Think of it more as a fictional story that possibly has some facts sprinkled in. 

I have a cousin who, for the purposes of this story, we’ll call Al1. Al is 9 years my junior, the son of my mother’s younger sister, and an only child2. It stands to reason that I did things before Al because I am older and, since we were often together as children, it also stands to reason that I would influence Al in someway.

Such was the case when Al decided to try playing tennis. I’d already been playing for some time and gained enough proficiency3 to be an obvious source for Al to turn to for help getting into the game4. Happy to help5, Al and I took to the court to get him started. We weren’t at it long before I reached the conclusion that Al would never amount to much of a tennis player. He was uncoordinated to the point that I wondered how he even remained on his feet much less how he’d ever consistently connect racket with ball. I didn’t let on that he had no future in the game6, he did seem to enjoy trying, but I knew with complete certainty7 that tennis wasn’t for Al. This would mark the first time I underestimated Al8. It turns out, I was more than just a little off in my assessment of Al’s on-court ability. He got better and he got better rather quickly. Just a couple of summers later, Al and I were standing across a green rubico clay tennis court from each other under a hot Florida sun. Until this point, I’d easily bested Al on every occasion that we played9 and I’d won the first set on this day, but only barely. I stood to serve to start the second set, drenched in sweat, covered in green dust from the court, gassed and dizzy from a hard effort in the heat looking across at Al who was not drenched, dirty, gassed, or dizzy. No, he was the opposite of all that. Dry, peppy, fresh, and doing that thing with the racket where you spin it in your hand, with a wry grin on his face10. The next two sets were just a blur to me12. I won very few points, no games, and it was all over quickly13. I’m not sure I ever played tennis again14. Al certainly went on to play more tennis .. in college .. on a tennis scholarship15.

Some time later during a family trip to the beach, Al asked me about playing guitar. Of course, I encouraged him to give it a try16. We listened to a few tunes, I plunked out some melodies17 to show him how to sort out what was being played, and explained things like how to hold the instrument18, how to tune it, and other practical lessons. During that time at the beach, we spent a fair amount of time fiddling19 around with guitars and songs. Once again, Al was enthusiastic and once again, I was confident he’d never catch on. I remembered myself moving from hardly being able to hold the instrument to playing passable songs in short order20 but after a few days of close instruction21, it was like Ground Hog’s Day22 with this kid – as if he hadn’t heard a thing I’d said the day before. You’ll be shocked to know that I was wrong again23. Al kept playing and, if anything, he’s even a better guitar player than he is a tennis player. I’d be embarrassed to sit in with his band or even sit around the coffee table and play music with him now24.

So, two strikes25 for me and you’re probably figuring out Al is likely the brighter of the two of us. Well not so fast26. Al graduated college27 and went to law school28. By this time, Al and I hadn’t spent much time around each other in years. By the time he was finishing law school, I would only hear sporadic updates about Al from my mom or his mom29. When Al first took the bar exam and didn’t pass it, the worry set in30 among some in the family, but not me. Oh no, I had learned31 my lesson about underestimating Al. I said it right away and I said it to anyone who’d listen32, ‘Al will not only pass the bar, he’ll be a hell of an attorney’33. I’d seen this uncoordinated kid become a really good tennis player and an accomplished musician so I was sure he’d sort out the bar exam34. Of course, he did pass the test35 and has gone on to be a fine attorney36.

So what does all this matter? Al has a good career going, a talented wife, three super smart kids but of course the obvious question is, how does this help me37? Well, a few months ago, Al called me about getting into road cycling38. You see, I’ve been riding for some years and he figured I could help point him in the …. familiar story, right? This time around, I could see the plan forming in my head even as he asked those first questions about cycling everyone asks when they start39. This time, I would employ Al’s ability to learn new things quickly, his natural physical gifts, to my advantage. The plan is to get him going, hope he sticks with it and gets super strong, then bring him to my area for a big ride with the fast folks in my circle, playing it off like ‘he’s my cousin who is just getting started so you guys go easy on him’. Then, I’ll coach40Al through the first few hours, upping the pace, applying the pressure and eventually laying to wood to my ego-driven buddies while I sit on41, readying myself for glory. See, I know Al, and by the time this day comes, he’ll already be stronger than I am on the bike42 but I may still have some tactical advantage left43 and that will allow me the gap I need to win one last set44 from Al while crushing my usual riding group at the same time and that’s lots of winning for me45.

Seems petty you say? Perhaps, but I see it as the small, tangible, mildly entertaining byproduct of learning some valuable lessons from my cousin. Help people when you can. Be encouraging even if you aren’t truly hopeful. Understand you’ll get it wrong sometimes so don’t be afraid to admit it and learn from it. Realize that most of the time you think you’re helping others, you’re the one being helped. And perhaps most of all, enjoy the glory in life; it’s fleeting and in all likelihood, Al is right behind you and he isn’t even breaking a sweat46.

1because that’s his name
2other than being younger than me, none of that is relevant to the story
3to impress people who didn’t really understand what talented tennis players looked like
4I don’t remember how old we were or if that’s really how it happened
5or show off and elevate my young ego by crushing a novice partner
6actually I may have taunted him
7the certainty that only a prepubescent male can muster
8unfortunately, I wasn’t as quick a learner as I am now, and I did it again later
9I’m not sure about that actually, but it sounds better for what about to come
10it’s possible I was hallucinating at this point, Al wasn’t a smart ass11
11yet
12I believe we played two more sets, it’s also possible I blacked out
13no idea really what the score was but I’m pretty sure I didn’t win a game
14ok, that’s a bit dramatic although I really don’t remember if I ever played again .. I probably did, and even if I didn’t, it was my choice and not because my ego was crushed
15at least I’m told he got a scholarship – my mother and her sisters have been known to embellish their son’s accomplishments – remind me to tell you about my older cousin Scott.
16this is where I wish I could tell you I remembered the tennis lesson
17he had no idea if I was really even close or not
18I should mention I never had any guitar lessons – I had 4 bass guitar lessons but they’re both stringed instruments so I wasn’t making it all up
19I’ve never played the fiddle
20I was in college when I learned to play, many beers and years before this moment so I was maybe giving myself a little extra credit
21the instructions of a young, self-taught, mediocre hack but still
22the Bill Murray movie, not the actual holiday, where he wakes up to the same day over and over and incidentally, learns to play piano
23it’d be nice if you’d tell me you would’ve thought the same thing and I shouldn’t feel so stupid
24which is odd considering how often I take credit for his talent and skills … also, I’ll actually sit in with anyone, anytime, anywhere … the stage is irresistible
25I hate baseball and I apologize for mixing metaphors among sports, I guess I could have said I double faulted but there isn’t a triple fault and I still need some room to tell the story
26well, he probably is brighter but I’m not a complete moron despite the way this story is unfolding
27whoop-t-do, I did that too
28after some indecision but still, law school, impressive right?
29his mom is a teacher who by this point was teaching my children and doing a much better job than I ever did helping Al with anything – thankfully
30we’ve got a few pessimistic types in the family – shocked aren’t you?
31‘learned my lesson’ sounds too passive – Al taught me and the more I think about it the more I wonder if he was playing me all along?
32there really wasn’t anyone listening except my wife and she doesn’t have to testify against me, does she? Al?
33I’m sure I said that before just now, at least once, or something close to it
34not as sure as I am now, years after he did pass it but sure none the less
35or I’d have written a much less flattering story about how I was right all along
36this is a huge assumption on my part as I have no idea if he’s a fine or even decent attorney …no representation that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services to be performed by some other guitar playing ex-jock lawyer
37me as in me, the guy writing the story – not me as in you reading it – why would I write all this about you? I don’t even know you. Well, I might know you since mostly only my family and friends will read this but …
38road bikes – as in racing bicycles ridden on the open road while wearing all manner of silly looking spandex, often as in my case, by middle-aged men
39it’s truly startling how we all ask the same things in the beginning, make the same declarative, ‘I’ll never shave my legs’ type statements … ‘I’ll never ride 100 miles at once. I’d just like to be able to go for an hour or so’ … 6 months later, we’re all signed up for a century ride, hairless and clad in lycra
40coach, manipulate … whatever, it’ll only work once so I’m going to enjoy it
41‘sitting on’ is when a rider drafts off others, shirking any work out in the wind to save energy, often for a well-timed, if not well-regarded attack at the finish line on those who have been doing the work
42I know it’s coming but still, 17 years of riding and he’ll best me after 18 months on the bike, it’s not easy to take
43I am fairly astute on the road if I do say so myself
44sorry about the metaphor mixing again but I’m wrapping it up so it helps to pull the story together
45Al would probably play along anyway to help his aging cousin out a bit – he’s a good guy that way
46The End

Swim

I’ve used this picture before but it’s the only one of the creek* I have handy so forgive me for using it again. Also, it has my dad in it so I like it.Me and Dad in the creek circa 1968 A few years after this picture was taken, I learned to swim in this creek and when I say “learned to swim”, I mean swimming by my grandmother’s standards and taught by her tried and true, never lost a baby to the water, methods. There are stories of her nudging her children out of a small boat in Mobile Bay to induce swimming. In my case, she used the current and a bend in the creek as a final exam in a class my mother didn’t know I was taking that day. Katherine T. Still was a graceful swimmer and never in any danger of drowning herself due to the fact that she was unsinkable. To this day, I’ve never seen any human being who could float like she could. It was as if she was perched on the surface of the water the way a deity would demonstrate its deityness to non-believers. She barely had any draw at all. On this day, we floated around the bend in the creek together. “The bend” was just a curve in the creek where the water was a little deeper and the current was a little stronger. Little kids didn’t go around the bend without grown-ups because we weren’t strong enough to swim back against the current. We’d always catch a ride with a bigger, stronger swimmer and I figured that would be grandma on this day. I figured wrong. As it turned out, she had a different plan for me. She believed I was strong enough to swim myself back around the bend and before I could try to change her mind, she was gone. Frankly, I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking at the moment. I don’t recall if it was the fear of being stranded or some sort of blind faith in her but I didn’t sit there long before swimming after her. Of course, she was right. I swam myself right back around the bend.

Now, some 40 years later, it’s a known characteristic of my personality to step off into the deep end with little consideration to whether or not I’m actually prepared for it. It works out most of the time. Do an Ironman triathlon on no training? I did that. It hurt, I was slow, but I did it. Need someone to do a presentation to a large group … now? Sure thing. What would you like me to talk about? I hope I don’t stop putting myself in those situations just because I may not have all the experience or training it might seem I’d need to be successful. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be prepared but you never know what you’re really capable of so I tend to err on the side of being able to swim back around the bend on my own even if I’ve never done it before. Thanks grandma.

 

*the creek is a particular stretch of water with incredibly cold water and a stout current where my family went to swim for as long as I remember and a long time before that. We’d meet there and spend the day playing in the sand and swimming. I’m not sure why we stopped doing that but I sure have fond memories of many days at the creek.

Reflection

Sunday, March 6th

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on decisions I’ve made and thinking about how to move forward. Today in particular was full of reflection.

A new job late last year and a long stretch of 14+ hour days, 6 or 7 days a week certainly didn’t help my hopes of getting fit. That job is no longer an issue and while I’m still in retail, I sell bikes and have time to ride but haven’t. As I woke this morning, I was really wondering if this was just it for me and cycling. The mounting back issues from late last year got much worse over the winter and, while I’ve made progress and improved, I’m not sure I can get back to riding hundreds of miles a week like I need to let alone start running to help prepare for that half ironman I signed up for in September. Since I first started riding, I’ve never gone this long with so little activity, I’ve gained weight (again) and fitness seems far away. So, is this it? It feels easy to just let it go.

Fortunately, my wife Melissa knows how much cycling means to me and how much it helps my state of mind and physical being so she’s great about encouraging me to get back to it. “Who are you riding with Sunday?” she’ll ask. We only have one day a week with each other since I work Saturday so I appreciate her willingness to give a few hours away for me to ride. The answer to the “who” question today, as it has been so often, is Tom Holt. Tom is responsible for me ever turning a pedal on a road bike in the first place and he’s still there to push me to get back out … and kick me once we’re riding. As I clumsily assembled my gear to meet Tom at his house, feeling like it’d been a life time since I kitted up for a ride, I took my time to ensure I remembered everything: helmet, shoes, ziplock for my phone and some money, bottles, Garmin charged – I’ve got it all. But then, more reflection on the way over to Tom’s house. This time it was the reflection in my rear view mirror; there should be a bike in that reflection, sitting on the rack on the back of the car but there isn’t a bike in that reflection because I forgot it.

After a delay to return home to get my bike, we eventually head off to ride. Just like we used to roll, no real route, no preloaded GPS data, just a general direction and a neat old country store with a friendly owner were we hoped to take a mid-ride break. As we rolled along talking about the usual wide range of topics, I was reminded of what drew me into the sport in the first place. This sort of camaraderie, being outside, feeling the effort, it all seems so much closer, so much more obvious that I will get back to it and find my legs again. If I needed any extra motivation, more reflection was there to show me the truth I need to see. We all have this ability to see ourselves differently than how we really are. I’m quite adept at convincing myself that I’m not that heavy and frankly, I’m not for non-cycling folk but for even a recreational cyclist, I’ve grown portly. As Tom and I rolled along side by side, the reflection in his sunglasses was as honest as it gets and I’m quite round … ouch. I mentioned what I saw and Tom was quick with the polite comment “well, the lenses are curved so it isn’t an accurate reflection” which made me chuckle. What a nice friend but there has been enough denial … and pizza …. already.

I’ve got some ground to make up to be fit like I want and need to be but I’ve got people who will help me get there, the looming reckoning of a half ironman event in just six months, and a love of riding a bike. I’ll make it and hopefully, soon, the reflections will be much kinder.

Chances

It’s good to take chances. In my younger days, I took them all the time in my professional life. By and large, with each chance taken, I became a better, happier person professionally. Eventually, one of those chances didn’t work out so well. Even then, I learned so much, met so many awesome people I’d have never met, I got to work with my wife, that it was hard to feel like a failure even when that business most certainly failed. Still, the overall experience, from a financial and a family strain perspective, did cause me to stop taking chances for a few years. Then in 2015, it felt about time to put myself out there again. I met a good guy with an interesting business who was looking to expand. Over the course of months, conversations turned into plans and I joined his venture. We did some good work and opened an incredible new store. I’m proud of what we accomplished in a very short time and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have been a small part of the storied history of a landmark in our area. But … as we got through the Christmas season, it became obvious that the plans we made in August weren’t the plans that seemed right in January so this latest chance came to an end … but rather than being down, it feels like it did when I was younger. I certainly wish things had worked out the way I thought they would when I took the chance but even though they didn’t, I’m a better, happier person for taking the chance. I met great people, did good work, I made a difference to my employer’s success and most of all, I learned stuff. How is that not awesome?

Of course, I’m momentarily unemployed. Scared? Well, I have obligations and I don’t really have a back up plan but no, not scared yet. Some of those awesome people I’ve met have already reached out to me with opportunities. I’ve reached out to previous employers and friends and already, opportunities are forming … including more chances to take. Sometimes (often if I’m completely honest) I wish I had just found a job out of college befitting my degree and ridden the clock towards retirement. I might have some sort of security, some sort of nest egg but I’m just not built that way. I might as well wish I could crap gold. This latest chance has reminded me that I’m built to take chances so that’s what I should do even if it’s in just small ways. Maybe some people’s puzzle has more pieces than can be assembled in 10 or 20 years. Maybe I’ll find my corner pieces this year or next but I’ll find them as long as I keep looking and I keep taking chances.

Ten Years On

Me and Dad in the creek circa 1968

Dad loved to swim, especially in this creek. I’m the smaller one in this shot. A few years later, I’d learn to swim in pretty much the same spot.

My dad has been gone for 10 years. That seems like such a long time for something that feels like it just happened yesterday. I’ve been thinking for the last year or so that I should put some thoughts down around this milestone but when it finally got here I just didn’t feel it. Part of it might have been that I had to travel on the exact day, October 19th. Normally, I’d spend most of the day on my bike, thinking about him but this year I spent the day in airports and airplanes … still thinking about him. The truth is I think about him a lot. That may sound sad but it isn’t. It is uplifting actually. I’m thankful that I had a dad like him, thankful I had 37 years to know him and thankful for the time we had to say goodbye. I realize how fortunate I am to have had those things and that time. I’ve come to understand that my relationship with my dad didn’t stop the day he died. It took a while to see it that way but it’s true.

This will sound odd but I could not have imagined how deeply the untimely death of my father would affect me. Most people will agree before such an event that they expect it to be difficult and life changing but the profound shift in my being is still difficult to comprehend ten years on. My mother, my sister and I were with him until his last breath and those moments seemed unbearable as they unfolded. I relived it for months and for the first few years, the emotion tied to it was so strong I found it hard to keep my own emotions in check throughout the day as my mind continually returned to him. The first few dreams I had of him after his death remain the most vivid, emotionally gut-wrenching experiences I’ve ever had. As impactful as losing him in the first place, as if he was reaching out to try to tell me everything would be ok but in a torrent of energy I couldn’t possibly control. All I could do was weep uncontrollably. Awful, right? Well, for a while it was but then it wasn’t.

I’m not exactly sure when it began to change but sometime, a few years on, I realized that my thoughts about him weren’t really sad at all. Sure, I missed him but only physically. There was still conversation. There was still advice. There was even still laughter and happiness. I knew him my whole life so it isn’t like I don’t know exactly what he’d say in most any situation and, whether I’m making it up or not, in my head I hear him all the time. At some point, those thoughts became just me and my dad carrying on like we always had. I feel nods of approval, nudges sometimes when I need it and reassurance at times when maybe only he could know how I feel. It’s sort of like social media. I haven’t seen him in a decade but he comments on my posts, likes my pictures and I still share things with him but the app is in my head, written in memories. He was a positive person, perhaps the most optimistic person I’ve yet to meet. I’m sure he had moments when the world got to him but he always looked forward, always smiled, always believed better things were on the horizon. How could I go around the rest of my life all down about losing a guy like that? Of course it sucks that my dad died at 59 years old but it would suck more if I lost the message of his entire life and wallowed around in sadness and self-pity for the rest of mine. So, maybe that’s why I don’t. I think I can’t do that. I think I have to be thankful for having a great dad, a great friend and I have to be thankful by carrying on and being happy and trying my best to be a good father, husband and friend.

So why say all this? Maybe it’s my way to express the old “time heals all wounds” thing but it’s better than just wounds healing. It’s also that the scars that remain aren’t all bad either. Death is one event and I’m grateful that one event hasn’t completely obscured the 59 years of his life for me. Maybe I’m putting this out there to acknowledge that there are some things I need to do better to really live up to the attitude I described above. He’d be disappointed that I don’t see my mom and my sister more. He’d be upset that I have almost nothing to do with his brothers and sisters and that I hung on to some old animosity longer (at all) than I should have. Maybe I’m just not as far along the path as I’d like to be but I’m getting there and I hope this helps others do the same, especially others close to me like my kids, my wife and certainly my mother and my sister. I’m sure it’s been hardest for my mom. She knew him since they were little kids. There are certain reminders most powerful to me and my sister. We get to catch those glimpses of him in ourselves in the mirror and hear his inflection in our voices that put him right back in the room with us. But even those things are now almost exclusively joyful for me and hopefully, others can see that and feel that way too around their own losses. I wish my kids had more time with my dad but they had some time and they remember. We talk about him. I talk about him. Most of my friends know more about him than they probably care to know because I rarely pass up an opportunity to share a line, a quote or a piece of advice from my dad. It’s not always easy, sometimes I just want to hug my dad, but it’s not always hard either and that’s important to remember and worth sharing.

So yeah, I miss him but he’s still alive in me and in our family and he’ll continue to be a part of our lives. He wants us to be happy, joyful, optimistic and he wants us to live. This life, our lives didn’t stop the day his did and he certainly wouldn’t want us to waste a moment in sorrow. He would want us … he wants us to live, to love and to be happy. So for Ronnie, for Big R, for Giddy, for dad and for each other, let’s do that.

Deep Connections, Social Media and Death

I have a core group of people I’m particularly connected to. Some of them I’ve known since early childhood, some since my teenage years and some I met relatively recently but I share an unusual connection with all of them that was immediately clear upon meeting that allows us to maintain a close friendship without physically seeing each other regularly or often. In fact, I don’t even talk to some of these people for months and years at a time but once together, it’s as if we’ve never spent a day apart. It’s a dynamic that my wife picked up on soon after we met (partly because we share such a connection although I’m rarely away from her). She’d meet one of these people in my life for the first time and find it unbelievable that we’d not seen each other in years. I’ve never thought it unusual at all to have these sorts of relationships. It is simply the mark of true friendship and a bond that, once formed, is nearly impossible to break. I suppose those who believe in past lives would say we are old souls coming together yet again and it is that our souls are bound from connections formed over countless centuries and lifetimes. That would be cool but it’s more likely that people who are willing to be true friends are just drawn to others willing to do the same. No pretense, no nonsense, no guard. We need that honesty, both given and received, to feel right about the world. In a way, the reason that works is that we really know each other so our daily routine is influenced by each other as if we are there to experience things together because at some point we experienced a lot together. Lives once wound together that deeply stay wound together I guess. I think everyone has relationships like that with close family but not everyone is lucky enough to have it as much as my friends and I and I’m grateful for those bonds. I thrive on being there for them and thankful for the times they’ve been there for me and I hope my children have the same opportunities in their relationships.

I think more about all this lately due to the influence and constant presence of social media in our world. The goal of social media is to connect us and keep us connected and that seems revolutionary to those who have limited connections but it seems sort of silly if you really think about it. Social media is an amped up, digital version of what we used to do at the barber shop, corner grocery, school yard and work place. As handy and entertaining as it is, it’s not the same as having been there. On the other hand, social media has allowed me to catch up with folks who weren’t super friends but whom I really liked knowing when I knew them and that’s great. Please don’t take this wrong when I call them “lesser relationships” but everyone can’t be your brother from another mother. I really appreciate some of the lesser relationships that have formed or been refreshed through social media. Facebook has been a second chance to know some people and a way to stay in touch with people I’d lost touch with before Facebook was there. Just as sure I know that my true friends will always be friends and that has been a fact for as long as I’ve known them, I also know I have missed chances to gain new friends and to be a friend to others along the way. Social media has become a conduit and a crutch, both of which are helpful and make us better friends to most people than we were before.

You might be thinking that I somehow think myself special and that most people have old friends they’ve known forever. I simply think myself fortunate that I was taught what true friendship and love is and that I was shown that it is imperative to express and seek both. Most importantly, I was taught that important relationships come with great responsibility and a demand of respect and that is something seen less and less these days. I wish everyone had friendships like I have and maybe many do but it’s obvious to anyone who’ll honestly look that most people just don’t get it. I am lucky to have been raised by great parents. They weren’t perfect but they sure tried hard and I’d like to think the effort rubbed off on me.

My dad was a parent first but he was also a really good friend to me and to those he considered his friends. Nothing made him happier than when one of his friends asked for his help. I learned friendship from my dad and he was a great teacher and he remains a true friend of mine years after his death. You might think I should say that he “was a true friend” but the reality is that our relationship continues even though I haven’t seen my dad since 2004. He felt gone at first even though I was constantly reminded of him as I looked in the mirror or heard my own voice in a video or voicemail recording. Our mannerisms are quite similar and for some time after he died, that was tough to take. Slowly, those feelings began to shift as I realized that I still had conversations of sorts with him. Not looney, out loud conversations but more “what would dad do?” sort of thoughts. He is the reason I am the sort of person who has those deep connection relationships so it should have been obvious that I shared that with him too. Since he was always around I guess I never thought of it that way until a few years after he was gone. I know him well so I know what he’d say or do in most any situation therefore I can get his advice anytime I wish and, like it or not, I get his opinion all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever told him anything out loud since he died but I have talks with him and he knows what’s going on in my life. It’s like a combination of that deep friendship connection thing he taught me and a Facebook friend – I haven’t seen him in years but he “Likes” some of my wall posts and I write on his wall from time to time. He comments when it’s needed and some times when it isn’t necessary at all. I’m sure he likes all the photos. He takes better pictures than me but he never mentions that. I’m really glad I learned what he taught me and I’m glad I figured out how it applies to our continued connection. It’s made losing him a little easier to live with but an imitation afterlife Facebook is no substitute for hanging out with my dad and that is a constant reminder to make each day count. Even under the best conditions, life is short so don’t take it for granted. He knew that too. He used to always say “hug your babies” which meant let those you love know it. He wasn’t perfect but he sure got that part right.