I want to tell you a story – a story about my dad. It was from him that I first learned about stories, while sitting on my his lap (well I was still too young to even sit up, actually). It isn’t hard to smile when I think of the tales he has told me over the years. I have heard many of them again and again. Recently I had come to ask him if I should just “play the tape”. Usually he just kept going despite me giving him a hard time. My dad has shaped who I am more than I even know yet. I often find myself thinking, I am sure, many of the same thoughts he had as a younger man. We share a lot of traits, my dad and me. We are both ambitious and amicable, contemplative and caring, idealistic and at times impractical, sensitive and stubborn.
My dad’s stories taught me about him but also about life. It was through his stories that I learned about music, art, history, and literature. His stories introduced me to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and to how classical music has stories of its own. He brought me to museums and inspired my early artistic endeavors such as drawing and photography. My political education started with my dad’s stories of Roosevelt, Kennedy and others and of the war stories he would tell.
Later in life, we comforted each other with stories of woe as we looked to the politics of the day and the state of Minnesotan pro sports teams. Ever the storyteller, my dad began sharing his stories with the world through his blog. All of those stories were true, give or take a lie or two.
My dad, never the picture of health, overcame a bout with nearly debilitating rheumatic fever as a child to go on to join the Air Force and travel the world. He made a home away from home in Turkey while in the service and I couldn’t get enough of the tales of adventure there. When he returned home he moved to a business fast track and may have still been there today had heart troubles not derailed him into a more slow-paced way of life. However much my father inspired me to professional success with his career accomplishments, it was with his embrace of a simpler life that he taught me the most valuable lessons. He understood what is important in life and has shown me ways to be more appreciative of my family and friends. It is a lesson, I am sure, that he will continue to provide me even now.
I know we are all currently grieving, but we have to remember that this grief is ours. It is for what we have lost, and what we remember, and what we will not experience again. I will miss his stories – just sitting and talking with him about any of hundreds of topics he could go on about. I will grieve the loss of those stories. But it is my grief. It is not my dad’s. My dad lived a great life, with few regrets. He shared his love with many and touched countless lives. His advice to us, with how to deal with our grief, was simple – in a letter written just 7 or so hours before his death, my dad made it clear:
Just, just, just get over it!
Now that’s what I’ll have to try to do.