I have a ton of great memories of my dad. Growing up, he was my friend, but there was never any ambiguity about his role as a parent. It was comforting because I always knew where I stood. I was always clear on his expectations of me as a person, student, and a future adult. He was there to teach me about responsibility, priorities, integrity, and accountability. He set an example for me by leading his life the way he wanted me to live mine, and I couldn’t have had a better role model. Of course, one of the things I loved most about my dad was that he loved to have fun and believed it was a just reward for working hard.
Dad loved the outdoors. From a young age, I accompanied him to fishing holes all up and down the river and streams that ran through my home town. When I got big enough to help carry the canoe, we drifted downstream, casting our bait into promising pools along the river. He told me about similar hours fishing when he was a boy, same river but miles away from where I grew up. Later I would see black and white photos of him in cut-off shorts as a boy, pole in hand, and that same smile on his face that spoke of his eagerness to bring home trout.
We shared a love of tennis, too, and I can remember weekends when we rose early to arrive at the courts before they got crowded. Sometimes we left early enough that dew still sparkled on the nets. We would have the courts to ourselves, at least for a little while, long enough for us to be sweaty and hungry for breakfast when we got home. Sometimes we had to hurry to shower in time for church, and we left the house with the snap in our steps that early morning exercise still brings me, when I can manage it before a cup of coffee.
It was somewhere in my early teens when we became rabid roller coaster enthusiasts. Dad loved a road trip, eagerly plotting routes with his Rand McNally road atlas, something he would request for Christmas every year. To him, getting lost always seemed like part of the adventure, a challenge to overcome with a keen sense of direction and the ability to instinctively smell a short-cut. The drives were filled with classic tunes from the time when he drank vanilla Cokes at the soda shop, and I knew the catchiest tracks on the cassette tapes from hours of listening. As I grew older, I even earned the right to play some of my hair metal, though we always seemed to compromise with Credence Clearwater Revival.
Dad and I had our differences. He was always a practical guy who seemed grounded in the tangible and logical. When I discovered science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels, spending more and more time with my face in books, I can never remember him belittling time spent with my imagination. When I started writing my own stories about fantastical adventure and nightmarish creatures, it was something that we didn’t share but something that he never discouraged. Of all the memories I have of my father, it was this unconditional support that I remember most fondly, the encouragement and reminder that hard work can be applied to anything with remarkable results. It’s something I try my best to show my son.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. We miss you.