My friends, this is only the beginning of a new way of thinking. Each blinking day, a blessing. As we live. As we die. As we watch our friends and family paralyzed by loss.
Two of my good friends buried their father’s today. The same day. Our friendship’s cosmically connected by a meeting of their parents so many decades ago. Those photo albums from the seventies stuffed and stacked away. Now digital photos to be thumbed through not touched. Not held. Not framed. My mother reminded me I will wake up tomorrow and remember that eleven years ago to the day, my own father died and how I reacted. How his loss brought me to my wife. Creating my own family.
When I heard the news. How far off. On the other side of the world, when I received the call. “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” was all I could say. “Father, How I miss you.” How I think of you when I work out and try to live up to the tall shadow you still cast. How I hit that heavy bag and pretend to be a champ. How I bob and weave. Pretending I am defending my family. Genetically connected to you. I try to feel how you must have felt. To be the champ in all sports. To tower among men. To be respected by your fists, strength, quickness and even more by your gentle kindness.
I think of the war you survived. Once a Marine always a Marine. How could I ever know what that means. How could I understand the loss you must have felt by surviving the Korean war. The Frozen Chosen at Chosin Reservoir. Retreating. Bodies stacked six high as hard as unbroken bags of ice.
I think of your shadow and how I never will measure up. Never. And maybe that is why I began to quit. Quit karate. Quit football. Quit the Army. Quit grad school. Quit coaching soccer. Who could coach better than you. I can see you running 150 kids through weekly basketball drills from age six to sixteen like you are controlling them with a gaming joystick. Like it is digital. When coaches and kids were physical.
At your funeral I remember, 400 people coming to wish you on. To the other side. Where your heart of gold would work. Would be strong and not fail you. Would last as long as your legs wished to ever bike or run. I remember fifty year old men, who were boys when you coached them football, baseball, soccer, (what did you not coach) crying about you. I could see you cast the same shadow into them too. How you coached them. Coaching was your ministry. Your lesson was to never give up. That was your second golden rule you. How you coached it, not by shouting but through showing. What have I learned. I am a mix of you. And there is no shame in quitting. I can give up on what does not work into my path. Like your Marines whose path did not lead to China.
For all our lives are different and my gifts have never been my physicality. My fight is with no one but my disease. I seek not to punctuate masculinity. And now, only in retrospect, I know a son paints his own path and his own destiny. If only we took that last trip to Cali. I told you,”No, I didn’t need you, I could make it.” Daddy, I did. I made it there and back and I missed you all the way.