A letter to my Dad on his 80th Birthday...
Dear Dad –
Since you are now 80, I have to remind myself that this is not a eulogy but a birthday … :)
You are exactly 30 years older than me! What was it like when you were 30? Well ... you had just had twins -- your fifth and sixth children -- and soon mom would be pregnant with her 7th; when I was 30, I was on my sixth girlfriend … well +/- 1 or 2. That was the only major deviation from what would be a boyhood dream of being just like my Dad.
You were always larger than life Dad. Whether it was sports, physical presence, your smile, your quips, your military bearing – all of you made an indelible and interminable impression on me. I wanted to be just like you: College athlete, sailor, swimmer, lifeguard, phys-ed major, infantry officer, airborne-ranger. To a large degree I succeeded at much of this – but inevitably one must make his own mark on the world and after 12 years in the Army I struck out on my own – hoping to make you proud, but realizing at 34, that I was no longer going to live the life that you so ably modeled and the only life I had ever known. I had options -- I think about that – you were 34 with seven kids. What options did you have?
And now that I have the perspective of age, earnest employment, children (they say that 2 kids is the new 7), success and failure, I can only marvel at what you taught me by example and rarely by words. When it came to life’s tough decisions, I think you struggled with giving me advice, knowing that you didn’t want to direct or interfere – you always tried to be affirming and supportive. The example you set was like a megaphone for the ‘purpose driven life’: God, country, education, commitment, honor, integrity, spouse and family. Options? You always did what was best for your family – that was your option! I always thought that you lived the credo that the ‘hard way is the easy way’ -- at least if you wanted to taste life’s sweet rewards in your old age. It seemed that you have always asked yourself a simple question: “ … when I am ready to pass from this world, will I have lived my life in celebration or regret?” You may have some regrets, but the celebration that is around you today – make those regrets seem miniscule by comparison.
I think of the many times we spent together racing the Hobie Cat. Me the scrawny 160 lbs. trapeze artist and you at 240 lbs. – the proverbial ‘bag of rocks’ – but together we made a perfect 400 lbs., (the high end of the optimal Hobie 16 racing weight!) We made a great team and did pretty well. Sailing is full of metaphors for life – so I’ll leave you with this: As you make your last tack -- going from the ‘broad reach’ of 80 years to the final ‘reach’ of the race of life -- pull in the mainsheet and the jib, know that I am in the trapeze behind you, leaning back with you and ‘riding a hull’ -- and enjoying ever-so-much the final ‘puffs’ of the rest of your life.
Looking forward to your 90th! Let’s go sailing –
All my love.