On February 17, 1986, shortly after excusing himself from the ice for a breather from the hockey game he was playing with my brothers and some friends, my father collapsed and died from “massive coronary failure”. Had he lived, today would have been his 70th birthday.
I usually refrain from writing anything that is overly personal here on this blog, but my dad deserves much of the credit for my interests and my direction in life. The things that make their way onto this blog are things that he and I would no doubt have spent many hours discussing over the years.
My sense of humor, my interest in how things work, and an unquenchable curiosity about the connectedness of everything can be directly traced back to the time he and spent together watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus and James Burke’s Connections on PBS during my formative years. The former gave me an appreciation of why we shouldn’t take anything too seriously, and the latter was the catalyst that eventually led me down the path of complexity and knowledge management.
My appreciation for the importance of doing a job well, and for taking care of the people for whom you are responsible, come from his willingness to take me along on the job – he was a Roadmaster for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. This came in very handy in my early career as an Army officer. Aside from the sorrow inherent in losing a parent so early, I was also saddened by the fact that he didn’t live to see me receive my commission and that he and I never had a chance to swap “war stories” about life as a leader of men.
My greatest sadness from his early death is that he never really got to know my wife, Julie, and that he never had the opportunity to meet his grandkids. I am very happy that Julie and dad did meet, even if only twice and then only briefly. My sons would only have benefited from knowing my dad, and I daresay he would have “corrupted” them even more than I have managed to do on my own. I can only imagine how dad would have reacted to Zeke’s autism, but I have the feeling he would have taken it in stride and treated Zeke just like any other kid.
Although I am saddened by the time I’ve not had with my dad for the past 20+ years, I am very thankful for the time I did have with him. Like any teenager / young adult, I have the feeling I didn’t appreciate him as much as I probably should have at the time. Like any parent of teenagers, I have the feeling that my kids don’t appreciate me as much as I think they should. I can only hope that one day they will look back on this time in our lives and appreciate it as much as I do mine.
So, on this day of thanks giving I would like to say, “Thanks, Dad.”
And Happy Birthday.