Heading out early this morning, but first, I wanted to reach out to you and acknowledge the day. Somehow, we grow older and time sort of blends into a flat surface of memory. We confuse days and weeks or the times when things happen. It seems the older I am, the more I confuse the when and where of what happened and the years gone by are faded away, almost like a story that I lived through but feel as if it happened to someone else.
I can’t say I remember any of my Birthdays, except one, and even that memory is so distant and faded. I was 13 years-old, which, in our life is an important time because according to our tribes in the Old Testament, this the age that acknowledges the birth of manhood.
I can’t say I remembermuch. I can’t say I remember all the guests who arrived at this event and I can’t tell you what time this happened. I can’t say what I ate and I can’t tell you if I remember the name of the place where we celebrated this day.
I remember this was the last time I saw Uncle Alan and his band play together. I can say I remember Aunt Peggy singing. And I remember a toast. I remember a small little prayer book called a “Siddur.”
This book was handed down from one generation to another before making its way to me. Aside from this, in my 44 years, I cannot say I remember any of the gifts I’ve ever received on my birthday. And I wonder if I’m alone on this one. I wonder if the nostalgia I feel over the “Looking back,” feeling with a lack of memory somehow makes sense to anyone else but me.
I’m not sure if I remember any gifts I’ve ever given for someone’s birthday. But ah, I think I do have one memory. I bought my wife a car once. It was the first new car I ever bought on my dime with my own credit—and because I paid for this with all I had, I can say I felt proudly about it.
Being a Dad, I’m sure I received a few of those little kid gifts that are worthy of a smile. I’m sure somewhere, I have a hand-drawn birthday card with misspelled words and maybe something created for me out of construction paper.
I’m sure somewhere (wherever gifts like these end up) there is a similar piece of construction paper, drawn by me, and probably saying, “Happy Birthday Dad.”
The word “Dad” was my early year’s term for such a position. As I grew older the term switched from Dad into “Pop.” And there was affection in this word. There mas meaning to it and there was honor behind that meaning.
Mom’s birthday was on May 5th.
For a while, we would arrange a gift for Mom. And for a while, every year it was a round-trip ticket to New York and a dozen roses sent down to her place in Florida.
I can’t say I remember any other gifts that I gave Mom. But yes, somewhere in a box, I have an old yellowed piece of white construction paper with a crayon drawing of someone who I could only guess is Mom with a few glued pearls to the page—and the glue held for a long time on this construction paper. I swear, I still have it somewhere in a box.
I’m not sure what other gifts I’ve given or made. Maybe I made an ashtray once at camp. I made it out of clay and then it was put in a kiln, and cooked up solid. I wonder if I ever gave a Father’s Day gift. I can’t say I remember that. I can’t say that I remember giving any gifts ever. Of course, I was young then. You passed away when I was a kid. I know that we celebrated my introduction to manhood when I was 13 but I was far from ready for this at that time. I certainly wasn’t ready for manhood when you passed away. I was only 17 then
I often think about what it would be like to have you come to my house. I imagine it sometimes. And I imagine myself showing you the basement, the hot water heaters, and the boiler—the central vacuum, and electrical panel, wired for a generator, and the base, concrete construction, which supports the foundation of my home.
I often imagine what it would be like to have you here at my table and serve you a meal where we could all sit like a family. I envision Mom and Claire in the kitchen, talking, and cleaning up after us. And meanwhile, you and I would take to the deck outside. And we would sit and talk and you would see what I have. You would know what I lost and what I went through to gain it all back (and then some) and we would sit like Father and Son, talking about whatever came up, and I would at last have the chance to show you a little more about what I’ve done with my life.
It would be nice, Pop. I wish I could hear your voice. I wish I could tell stories as well as you could. And that’s something I’m working on too.
One thing I’ve learned at any stage in life; change is a frightening thing. And here I am now. I’m scared, Pop. I’m leaning into something new. And I’m good at it too. I help people. And these are people like us. I help kids who are struggling like I was and I help parents like you who struggle because they don’t know what to do with their kids.
Someone in an organization told me I needed to slow down. They said I need to remember that I can’t help everyone. And I agree with this. But that doesn’t mean I can’t offer. This also means (and like you would tell me) other people have their own agenda in life. The worst thing I could do is allow someone else’s agenda to interfere with my own. I am who I am and I’ll scream it loud without ever allowing anyone to stop me.
I started building my own brand recently. I’m trying to gain more certifications and then my next move is to develop a program or a system that can be helpful to others who struggle in life. I try to teach people to replace unhealthy thought with the benefit of healthy action. I try to help people discover strategies and I coach them to reach goals and improve wellness.
I never thought I could do this—at least, not on this level. I’ve always tried to give back. I’ve always tried to repay what I owe. And what I mean is I’ve been trying to make amends for a long time until one day, I decided I’m not doing what I do to pay anyone else back. I’m not doing this to be validated or liked. I’m doing this because I want to.
The last few months have been intense. I’ve seen things that both you and I could understand. And yes, we sat on different sides of the table—but now I’m on a different side of the table as well. I’m on the good side now and I’m trying to help people fight the good fight
You should see me, Pop.
I wish you could see me.
I really do . . .
I’m not sure if you remember that time we played golf. I know I wasn’t very good at the game, but we still played you and me.
Do you remember that shot I took from the “T” at the 5th hole with the dogleg? That was the first and probably the only time I hit the ball and had it land right there by the green. I remember how quiet the golf course was. I remember you giving my instruction. You were telling me not to lift my head and how to follow through with my swing. This wasn’t the first time you told me this. I couldn’t even put a number on how many times you told me these same instructions. You would tell me to find my stance and to focus on the face of the ball where I’d hit after I swung the club around.
It was always so incredibly quiet on the course. The green grass, the smell of the park, and us—we’d walk from one hole to the next. Remember? I swear this was one of the quietest places on Earth. There were no sounds to distract me from the moment, which was a struggle for me at times.
What I remember most is standing at the 5th, taking a deep breath, and listening to you coach me along. Deep down, I made a decision. I made a decision that no matter what happens after this, no matter how I play the other holes—I decided this shot was going to be my best shot. I allowed the quiet to consume me. I did not allow any distractions. All I heard were your instructions.
As I drew my club back, I focused on the ball. No matter what came next, I swore this time would be the best time. I swore that I would follow my plan—I would do as instructed, keep my head down and follow through with my swing. Next thing I heard was the sweeping sound of my golf club as I brought it around. I heard the sweep, followed by the loud clacking sound as the face of my driver pelted against the side of the golf ball.
The ball took off quickly, but once it reached its high point in the air—everything turned into slow motion. It was a beautiful thing. And more, I remember you breaking the silent code of the gold course, cheering me on with “What a shot!!”
You yelled, “Way to go, kid!” and you even clapped if I’m not mistaken. You carried on and for the first and only time, I hit the ball furthest and landed closest to the hole.
I could sure use another moment like this one.
God, you were so proud. And I wish we had more moments like this Pop. I wish we had more time together. And I wish I paid more attention to those lessons you tried to teach me. Maybe this is why I do what I do.
I do this because somewhere is a father and son and I don’t want them to miss out like we did. I don‘t want the same sickness I have to take away from anyone else. I want to help parents understand their children and help children understand their parents. I want to change the language a bit. I want to stop parents from telling their kids, “What do you know, you’re just a kid,” and see if I can help them to relate more. At the same time, I want to help kids understand the difference between the generation because same as parents ask “What do you know,” these I work with have their own, “What do you know?” questions as well.
I wish you were here to see this Pop
I really do
I often tell people to write “Goodbye” letters to the things they need to get rid of in their life. I use this same exercise and well, partly, this is a goodbye letter to the guilt I held for too many years.
I’m going to close for now. I have someplace I need to be and there’s someone waiting for my help.
Happy Birthday, Pop.
I can’t say I remember any of the gifts I gave you back then. I’m not sure if you remember any of them either. I still have that prayer book you gave me when I turned 13. And I still honor the things you tried to teach me. The one thing I learned along the way is manhood comes in time. I’ve learned the definition of “Manhood” changes as life goes on. The man I’ve become is not the man I want to be, at least, not yet. But I am working on it because the man I work to become is the man you always taught me to be.
I miss you, Pop
I wish you were here to see this
I really do