Most people remember their father’s by the Saturday morning baseball pitch or the Sunday backyard BBQ’s. My memories with my father were centered around drinking, smoking, guns, and motorcycles–that pretty much sums it up. I have spent the last eleven years not talking about my dad.
Like all people, my father had some issues. During the first week of his life, he was abandoned by his mother and adopted by another family. This haunted him for much of his life. His escape came in the form of wine–Merlot to be specific. This wasn’t his only vice, however–he also loved guns and motorcycles. In fact, when he died almost eleven years ago, my brother and I had his last motorcycle tattooed on our chest with his name in block lettering just above it. My father loved having fun, and also understood that to have fun, he had to work for it. He was very successful and came from an era where a college education wasn’t required to do it.
On one humid Virginia evening when I was 5 years old, my mother finally had enough–enough of the drinking, enough of the fighting. I stood there on the porch of our house begging my mother to let me go with him. This was my earliest memory of my father and it wasn’t a fond one. My mother ended up moving my younger brother and I 2,820 miles across the country to California to live with her family on a farm. My father stayed in the south because of his work. This kicked off a cycle of summer visits to Texas, and later to Georgia, to visit my father.
My father had a difficult time getting over the loss of my mother, and as a result, always spoiled my brother and I. When I was seven years old, I flew out to visit him and found a pretty awesome surprise. He had decorated a room in his new house for my brother and I. The walls were covered in motorcycle themed wallpaper. There was a metal sign that read “Motorcycle Parking Here,” and just under the lettering was an arrow pointing to the right–pointing directly at a brand new Suzuki RM-80 dirt bike. Sitting just beneath the dirt bike was all the gear I needed to ride. My brother’s side of the room looked much the same. That summer he took us out on those motorcycles as often as he could and taught us how to ride. The next summer my brother and I came out to visit, we had new Ruger 10/22 rifles waiting for us and we spent much of that summer learning to shoot safely and how to break down our new weapons.
My brother and I were enthralled by all the fun things we did with our father. When I was eleven years old, I decided I wanted to live with him in Georgia. Reluctantly, my mother allowed me to leave. Life was different with my dad and Georgia life was vastly different than the California life I had grown used to. The people in the south were different and the school was actually more challenging. I was enrolled in Lost Mountain Middle School and this place was ahead of the curve compared to the California school I had been attending.
During the short time I lived with my father, I had realized that my dad had mastered the art of being cool, but didn’t know how to parent when it came to the regular issues. I took advantage of him. I got him to buy me alcohol–alcohol that he introduced me to (Mike’s Hard Lemonade). I stole his cigarettes. When he caught me, he made me smoke a pack, which only made me want them more. I struggled in school, which only made me start concocting elaborate forms of playing hooky. After only a year, I moved back to California.
During my time in Georgia, my mom had begun dating another man, which she soon married. Eventually, I assimilated back into the California school system and continued visiting my father each summer.
When I was eighteen years old, I had a bad breakup with a girl from high school. I spent the next two years learning about all of the sense-dulling pleasures that Northern California had to offer. My dad had remarried a couple of times and was working on another divorce from his current wife. He asked if I would be interested in moving in with him and I agreed. We spent the next couple weeks working out the details. In the end, I wasn’t ready to leave my friends or my drugs. When I called to tell him that I wasn’t ready, we argued. I never talked to him again.
While I was driving home one evening, I received a strange call from an unlisted number. It was a woman. She told me she was on a date with my father in Tennessee and he had choked at a restaurant and was in the hospital. By the time my brother and I made it to the hospital (we couldn’t afford plane tickets, so we drove as fast as we could), he was brain dead. Two weeks later, we had life support turned off and he died moments later.
I learned more about my father in death than I ever did in life. With a Google search, I was able to find quite a lot of his posts on a website called ZZRbikes.com. In fact, he had a total of 9,204 posts on their website. I remember going to his funeral and seeing all his fellow motorcycle group members that traveled from all over the country to be there for him. Looking back now, and reading many of the posts he made on their website, I think all these people knew him more than I ever did.
When we remember our loved ones we only speak of the good, but to truly heal from the loss of a loved one you have to reflect on the bad as well. My father loved us, but he showed his love in the form of materialism. What I would give just to go back and just spend time with him–learn more about him; guns, motorcycles, drinking, and smoking aside. Leading up to the time of my father’s death, I was consumed with parties and drugs. His death ultimately put me on the path I am on now. I know that if he were alive now, he would be proud. I know my kids would have loved him and he them.
His death taught me how to be a better father. While I enjoy spoiling my kids, I also converse with them and try to understand them better. I am honest with them and if they ever ask me a question about a private or controversial topic, I will always tell them the truth. I hope they will look back someday and not have any regrets over our relationship.
If you should take anything away from this blog is that you should not take advantage of the relationship you have with your father (or mother). Start a conversation and get to know him because special moments like that are fleeting.
It is amazing how easy it is to stuff it down and never confront the fact that when our loved ones are gone, they’re gone. The pictures used in this blog pretty much sum up all the images I have of him–I have several from when I was a toddler but pretty much nothing after that. Furthermore, the memory of their voices is always the first to go. Eleven years later and I can’t seem to picture his voice anymore. This post was especially difficult for me and forced me to confront a lot of underlying issues surrounding my father.
For this Father’s Day, I will be spending all the time I can with my kids. How will you (did you) spend it?