Tag Archives: fathers

Dedication Page

Last week marked ten years since my father died. I’ve decided to dedicate my book to him.

I finally settled on a title. The Intimacy of Communication: A Spiritual Encounter.

The book is in its final stages, and I’m learning more about Microsoft Word than I ever thought possible. The perfectionist in me wants everything “just right,” as if a typo makes me a bad person.

I expect perpetual greatness from my writing when better-than-average in some parts might be good enough. Did I expect greatness from my father all the time? Did I assume he shouldn’t get angry or that we’d always see eye-to-eye? If so, I was a fool, or at least a child.

Books endure revisions—and revisions of revisions. Whole paragraphs disappear, chapters expand and contract, wordy prose turns poetic.

Over the last ten years I’ve reimagined our father-son narrative. Some days a piece of dialogue we shared gets a fresh—or murkier—interpretation. Some days the character played by my father undergoes dramatic rewrites, revealing tragic flaws I hadn’t considered.

It’s hard for a son to grasp the power of his father’s presence, but even harder to mourn his death. As my book nears publication, have I even begun the process?

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Friendly Confines

My dad liked to say that in life people are free to choose their own confinements. He chose to become a teacher and found himself confined to the classroom. He chose to become a father and when I arrived he built a life based around my mother and me.

I say that our confinements help us appreciate the limited amount of freedom we have. By becoming a teacher my dad was not a librarian or a fireman or starting first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. The classroom became his world. He was bound by district rules, standardized tests, report cards and textbooks. But he had the freedom to teach Hamlet or the five-paragraph essay as he saw fit. He encouraged students to follow their passions, even though as teens many thought little of the future.

I’ve heard a theory that the major events of our lives happen no matter the daily individual choices we make. My dad was in a way destined to teach—maybe not in Chicago, maybe not English—but still a teacher. Even after his initial dream of becoming a minister wasn’t realized, he wanted to help people—lifting their spirits, nourishing their minds. Minister or teacher—he was in the same ballpark.

Oftentimes we try too hard to force the action in our lives. We push for things we think we want, only to see them escape our grasp. Then there are those opportunities we never considered, appearing out of nowhere.

There’s power in submitting to the possibility that my life follows some kind of destiny. Accepting the will of the universe and learning to live with myself? How freeing.

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The Child Is Father Of The Man

Eight years ago today my father died.

It’s always tough, but with each anniversary my sense of loss has changed. The other night I looked at his picture and cried, but the heartache, vast for a moment, passed.

I remember pushing my toy chest into his room as a child. I’d sell him a stuffed animal or Matchbox car and he’d pay me in hugs. The chest was heavy and the wheels were thin, but I forged ahead.

My father, I like to think, is asleep behind a series of doors in the middle of an endless hallway. Perhaps one day he’ll wake from a dream to find I’ve arrived, and recognize the child in me.

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A Difficult Piece

ABOVE A WHISPER

The grass around
my father’s grave.
To walk on blades
I can’t help but feel.

Does he see me struggle
over sunken markers
careful not to wake the dead?

I’d like to share the latest.
Everything I’m after.
News about a dream job
my own place to live
the love of a woman who finds
me worthy of affection.

There’s little to report.
I speak of world affairs.
Warmer winters.
Now he knows the score
of last year’s Super Bowl.

I get the sense
of talking to myself
above a whisper.

Over headstones
fixed in solemn rows
birds assuming
V-formation.

c b snoad
9-19-13

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Seven Years

My dad joked that he’d like to come back to earth as a toll booth because “people would throw money at me all day.” Later this week we’ll reach seven years since he died. Here’s my way of remembering him.

***

MY FATHER IS A TOLL BOOTH

On a high-octane
interstate exchange
my father is a toll booth
living out his dream

Change comes steady
the stop-n-go of anxious taillights
endless fenders
compact cars and heavy loads

His mouth’s a chute
brain an agile motherboard
one long arm to keep
the world at bay

Some dads turn to tadpoles
others moss or stone
a few shine as sunbeams
or grow mighty as a rose

Concrete and flashing lights
before the final exit
my father is a toll booth
living out his dream

c b snoad
5-20-13

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Dog Days

As I sit here writing my blog, our new terrier mix, Luna, is sleeping quietly through her first night at home. Our early moments together have been amazing, and her presence has lifted my spirits.

Yet I can’t help feeling sad as I replay the events of today’s adoption process.

My father loved dogs and owned many throughout his life. One morning in May 2006, as he prepared to leave for the hospital (and struggling to breathe), Dad said goodbye to our rambunctious beagle, Betsy. Unaware of the severity of my father’s illness, I thought for sure he’d see her again. He died the next day.

Betsy had her own health issues, and they got worse after Dad was gone. In January 2008, we had to put her down, her suffering too much for us to bear.

It was, of course, a terribly sad event, but it arrived with a competing emotional force. In the midst of dealing with Betsy’s passing, I recalled images of my father tossing her a coveted tennis ball, feeding her forbidden table scraps, and laughing like a child at her endearing “hound dog ways.”

All of this brings me to Luna–right now–and the realization that in joy there are often hints of sorrow; in heartache, traces of love. It all comes back to family, and in our house dogs are family too.

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More Than Just A Game

I encountered the game of baseball around the age of six, when I joined my local park district team. My career ended mercifully after one season. Even though most of my time as little-leaguer was uneventful, one moment lives on today.

It was raining one summer day, so we had to play our game indoors. I was installed at first base, hoping that the ball somehow would avoid me. A kid on the opposing team hit a pitch high into the air, all the way up to the ceiling. Magically, the ball landed in my open glove and stuck there. I had no idea what was going on, but my dad was in the gym, and he was cheering for me. That’s what he always did.

Today marks five years since my father died, and all I keep thinking about is baseball and our relationship to it. I’ll never forget how my dad, a huge Cubs fan, used to find out when my favorite team as a kid, the Atlanta Braves, would be in town to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He made sure that I got to see my team in person at least once a year. He rooted for me even when we weren’t rooting for the same team.

By the time college rolled around, though, I started following the Cubs and quickly became a big fan. One year after graduation, in 2003, I was having a difficult time in my life. It was often hard for me to get out of bed and face the world, but that summer dad encouraged me to emerge from my darkness and watch Cubs games with him. Again he was cheering me on, wishing the best for his struggling son.

Sadly, 2003 went down as another lost year for the Cubs. After beating, ironically, the Braves in the first round of the playoffs that October, the Cubs were five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945, when dad was just nine years old. The Florida Marlins scored seven runs in the eighth inning, though, and won game 6, forcing a game 7.

Hope was tough to come by at the start of that last game. The Cubs couldn’t recover from their previous defeat, and just like that, a promising postseason run went up in smoke.

The loss was hard enough, but I didn’t make it any easier for my father, telling him right after the loss, “It’s just a game.” Of course, I was trying to cheer him up as he had done for me that whole summer, but he was so heartbroken that my words were empty.

Three seasons later, in 2006, my father’s health was in decline. We still watched the Cubs, of course, but I could tell that it was harder for him to enjoy the games. In April, while the Cubs were in Los Angeles and playing the Dodgers, Cubs first baseman (and our best player) Derrek Lee broke two bones in his wrist during a collision at his position. Right after it happened, dad said, “There goes the season.”

I tried denying the truth of that statement, but I knew he was right. I didn’t know, however, that in one month my father would be gone.

When the season ended in October of that year, the Cubs finished in last place with close to 100 losses in a 162-game schedule. They watched the postseason from home as their archrivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, went on to win the World Series.

From my first-grade team, to my favorite club being five outs from the World Series, to watching last night’s contests on TV, baseball’s been more than just a game for me. It’s a part of who I am and part of who my father was. It unites us even though we’re not here together, cheering for each other.

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