Pops, Put Simply
Happy Father’s Day
While I wish that I could see you today and make you a pile of the fried catfish featured on the site this week for Father’s Day, it is a comfort knowing that in less than a week you and Mom will be up here for a visit! I have often said that I won the “familial lottery,” and the older get and the more folks I meet, the more I know that it is true. Upon reflecting on the ever-increasing number of ways in which you have made marked impact on my life, here are the top twenty moments and memories from my childhood and beyond that I have because of you! Pops, put simply, thank you for…
- …always making me feel safe. Even now, as a grown-ass adult with a pretty developed NYC-scowl, I still feel the safest and in good hands with you around. Growing up, me and Trav always knew things were going to get taken care of and that the bad guys were in trouble if they came around when you were there. Giving the family a sense of safety is one of the defining pillars of fatherhood and you have this one down pat.
- …playing catch in the yard or a local ball field for hours and hours – not to mention taking us to the batting cages and doing your best to get me to keep my eye on the ball and make good contact. While my baseball skills and talent peaked somewhere around the 4th grade, spending time with you on the diamond was a big part of my early years and something I hold dear.
- …not killing me in the McDonalds off 15-501. I remember you were taking me, Trav and Von to a Durham Bulls game and we made a pit stop at a McDonalds on the way to get some food. I don’t really remember what I was being pissy about or what led me to throw a cheeseburger at you in the middle of the “dining room,” but as the burger bounced off your chest and ketchup, pickles and ground beef flew everywhere, I knew that I would be lucky if I escaped that bathroom with my life and only a limp.
- …teaching me how to canoe and for taking us on a lot of river trips. White water can be a really scary thing, but with some good solid training and coaching, it can also be a lot of fun. I’ve always had a great respect for water and it’s life-giving and life-ending aspects, and thanks to you, I know how to celebrate its best features and avoid its worst. Even with a great teacher, I still ended up in the rapids a fair amount and in those moments, I always had confidence that if I stayed calm and got my bearings, it wouldn’t be long before I saw you cruising upstream to throw a life rope in my direction.
- …building me and Trav the treehouse by the creek. We definitely thought we were the coolest kids in the woods with that bad boy situated high up in the air – it even had it’s own porch overlooking the creek below! And thanks for humoring me later on in high school when I tried to make it into an elevated love den complete with carpet and electricity to play slow jams. Sadly, even that could not land me a girlfriend in high school. At least we gave it the pre-college try, I guess.
- …teaching me how to do the practical things in life, like changing the oil in the car, making a fire, framing a house, or opening a bottle of beer with damn near anything. In an increasingly digital, pay-someone-to-do-anything-for-you world, I am constantly appreciative of the practical knowledge you gave me (and so is my wife!).
- …all of the awesome furniture you have made for me over the years. From my very first bookcase to numerous entertainment centers to the amazing dining room table and gorgeous dresser I have in my home now, you have always been generous with your time and talents. One of your best, though, would have to be the wine box you made for my and Francesca’s wedding ceremony.
- …taking me to concerts and music festivals. Looking back, we had a great mix of different stuff to do as kids. From camping trips to concerts, we always had something fun to look forward to. Listening to music off a CD is great, but nothing compares to hearing it live and I am thankful for all the great shows you took us to.
- …showing up. Whether it was a basketball game, a play, or a recital, I could count on you to be in the stands or the audience pulling for me. It’s amazing what a kid can do when they know they have the unconditional support of their parents.
- …toeing the line between father and friend so well. I remember growing up me and my friends were really nervous around you because of your unrelenting “no bullshit,” policy and we were some pretty hard-headed morons constantly inventing new forms of jack-assery to try out. It cracks me up to think of things now where my friends virtually like you more than they do me and see you more often than me, too. You’ve always had a knack for being serious when the time called for it and for knowing when a little bit of levity was in order. It’s tough to switch from being a disciplinarian to the “Dude,” so seamlessly, but you do it quite well.
- …playing softball. It’s perhaps an odd thing to thank you for, but I had a great time going to your games in the summer and then going to Armadillo Grill afterwards for wings and beers. It was fun to see you in your element playing sports and hanging out with your friends. And just like the last memory, now all of my friends are playing with you on the same McCauley St Gang from my childhood. I’m sad that I didn’t get to see you play in your final season this year, but cheers to a great softball career!
- …building our house. Every year, it sets in a bit more what a true accomplishment it was for you to spend your nights and weekends for two years straight to build our dream house. Sure, you had a lot of help from Mom and some grunt work from me and Trav every now and then on the weekends, but that house is the physical embodiment of your dedication to provide for your family and it’s been an honor to call that place home.
- …putting up the swing by the river. Many of my favorite memories from my middle school and high school summers were spent down at the river having a great time jumping off the swing and going swimming. It was a great excuse to have my friends over and have a great time, not to mention opening my world to the wonders of skinny dipping (and now chunky dunking).
- …turning me on to good music. If we left it up to only Mom, I would have been left with way too much Michael Jackson and 70s and 80s dance music. Thanks to you, I was raised on a healthy diet of classic rock and blues and have a pretty well-rounded taste in music. It was also great having guitars around the house growing up – it makes me wonder if I would have still ended up becoming a bass player if I weren’t surrounded by such good music in my formative years!
- …your sense of humor. You are always cracking jokes and talking a bunch of smack so it’s no surprise that I ended up very much the same. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree in this case, much to the enjoyment and also the chagrin of those around us.
- …getting a smoker and then continuously cooking wondrous meat stuffs on it. You provided a great meat-ucation for me growing up and now I also try to eat as many meals as possible off of a grill. Eating healthy never tasted better than doing nothing more than adding some salt and pepper to a piece of meat and letting the charcoal do the rest.
- …putting up a basketball hoop at both of our houses. It was so great having a basket to shoot at in the afternoons when we got home from school. Me and Trav and our friends spent countless heaving bricks at the goal and had a blast. Thanks for taking the time to make that crucial part of childhoods happen!
- …making my elementary school projects completely kick ass. I remember when you built this incredible
Indian(if I’m being true what I was actually taught in school) Native American hut complete with a totem pole and then this awesome wooden castle with a draw bridge! When you weren’t securing A’s for me in the classroom, you were there to help me put together my ever-growing Lego empire.
- …playing disc golf. You have always tried to get on board with whatever my hobby-of-the-week was and I’m glad that playing disc golf has stuck. It’s a great new father-son activity for us to do and I love our time out in the woods even if half of our shots go straight into trees and/or ponds. Every now and then we make something happen, though!
- …taking me to countless Carolina games. I had to save the best for last! You gave me so many special memories in my life by making sure we made it out to plenty of UNC basketball and football games. I got to see many a great game in the Dean Dome thanks to you. Thanks for turning me onto being a fan of the best team around. Even if we’re stuck wearing a scarlet letter these days, we’ll be back on top soon and I know who the first person I’ll call will be when it happens!
Thanks for everything, Pops. I love you. In a complicated world where making the right decision is getting harder and harder to figure out, you laid out a great set of examples for what it means to be a good, hard-working man and father and I will be forever grateful for the invaluable road map you’ve bestowed upon me.
Happy Father’s Day,
P.S. Just because this thing still cracks me up and makes me think of you, here is a reprisal of the video I made for you a couple years ago for Father’s Day 2013.