On July 3, 1953 my dad was brought into this world, most likely kicking and screaming. He was early—a preemie, and just as he fought to be in this world, he spent each day of his 48 years here, living boldly and trying to have a lasting impact.
It’s awkward to say “happy 65th birthday Dad” knowing that the last time we celebrated his birthday together was for his 48th birthday—and then 27 days later he took his last breath.
Dad Through My Lens
My dad was an inquisitive child and clearly, from the stories shared with me, a daredevil. A childhood accident left him unconscious and unresponsive. Prayer and CPR brought him back to life. You could tell that the incident shaped his life thereafter. Dad wanted to do more, see more, and be more—understanding that life here begins and ends at a speed and intensity that we cannot control.
My dad was and is both a dreamer and a doer, both optimistic and realist, a lover and a fighter, creative and analytical, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial, a leader who could also follow.
He was and is a son, brother, husband, father, and friend. He will always be my father and my friend.
I catch myself when I slip up and comment that I wish he was here for certain things; because he is here, just not in the way that I would like. So I hold him close through my memories and the pictures of him.
I miss our talks. I miss watching football and basketball games with him. I miss creating our outlines for draft picks and trades, and who we expect to win playoff rounds. I miss watching track and field meets with him. I miss our workouts at the gym. I miss our business strategy planning and brainstorming sessions. I miss our weekly visits to IHOP with my sister, sitting in our favorite booth that management always tried to have open for us. Heck, I even miss our arguments.
Books and the Power of the Pen
My love of books and writing is because of Dad. He devoured books and was an amazing writer. He wrote in high school (even for a well-known Black newspaper in Oklahoma) and he wrote in college.
Guess who grew up loving books and not only was the editor of my high school paper, but I also wrote for the city newspaper where I grew up and initially majored in Broadcast Journalism in college (before switching majors two more times). I’ve never stopped writing—clearly, you’re reading this, so my love has not waned.
I did, for several years, slow down on reading books for leisure. If they didn’t have to do with school or work I didn’t seem to find the time to read them. Well, all of that changed last year. I’ve been devouring them, even more so this year. I’ve read more books in the past six months than I have in over three years. I’m just tapping into a favorite pastime that I shared with my dad.
I even went and got a library card last year—which I love using. Dad and I used to get so excited about our trips to the library, even as a teen and as an adult when we would go the law library—to do research for his business.
As a child I would giggle when Dad and I would place a bet on who could finish first at reading the biggest books we could find. I had no clue that Dad was teaching, molding, and challenging my brain through these exhilarating days. All I knew is that for a few hours each day, I would sit by my Dad and quietly read a big ole’ book.
So this year, I’ve set aside time every single day, investing time for myself to sit and read a book, and I can’t help but to smile and think of Dad sitting beside me reading his.
Love of Cars and Sports
My love of cars and sports is all because of my dad. My dad loved fast cars and he loved working on cars. I enjoyed every second that he would allow me to help him work on a car. The more grime I could get on my hands, the happier I was. He could ask for a certain tool and I would smile and look in the toolbox to see if I could figure out what he needed. Dad would teach me about the parts and the mechanics of it all.
At some point, dad stopped working on cars and started taking them to mechanics—hmmm, probably because he began acquiring finicky, high-end cars that weren’t as raw and accessible as the American brands he was accustomed to since childhood. It’s a possibility. I never asked him why he stopped working on cars.
I mentioned Dad’s love of sports. He played football and ran track in high school and college. Can you guess my two favorite sports? He loved the Cowboys, Raiders, and Lakers. Guess who I grew up loving?
My dad was the sprinters coach for two seasons at my high school. He volunteered to whip us into tip top shape and boy did he ever. So many of my friends still share their fond memories of training with Coach Foreman. Work demands prevented him from returning for the remaining two seasons. I have to say, my best years as an athlete have always been under the guidance of my dad. From sprinter to power lifter, having my dad as my coach was an amazing experience—painful at times, because he didn’t permit slacking or excuses, but oh so rewarding.
I always try to think “what would Dad say?” or “what would Dad do?” and cross my fingers that it’s just enough to satisfy my desire to have him here or a phone call away.
The past two days I’ve been babysitting my nephew Logan, and I can’t help but to think about Dad. He would be so excited to hold Logan, play games with him, sit him on his knee while watching sports—explaining the game and the roles and responsibilities of each player, take him outside to play, buy educational things for him to sharpen Logan’s mind, and take the family vacations that he always wanted to do with his two daughters.
So since Dad isn’t physically here to do these things with and for Logan, my sister and I will gladly step in and do them. With the help of our mom and family, we will tell Logan all about his grandfather. And when I have children, we will do the same for them.
I miss my dad but I will look for him in other people, in the circumstances I face, in the experiences that I have. The pain of his absence is of course less intense that 17 years ago when he transitioned; it’s still present, it’s just morphed and more tolerable. I navigate through it, not denying it while also not magnifying it. Dad wouldn’t want me grieving like that.
When I was a child he taught me that our pain-filled mourning hurts the person that we’re mourning—because they can’t be here to console us. I always try to remember that when I begin to cry.
The months of June, July, and August are so rollercoaster-like. Holidays, birthday, anniversary of marriage and of his transition. You want to celebrate and honor your loved one, at the same time you want to bury your face in a pillow and cry. I try to balance the highs and lows so that they don’t exhaust and drain me.
Celebrating Love of Food and Family
To celebrate Dad’s birthday this year I enjoyed a meal at IHOP—one of our go-to spots. I savored each bite as I listened to a John C. Maxwell audiobook. Our other go-to spot is Shakey’s Pizza, and the nearest one is about 3-4 hours away, so the goal is to get there with my sister and Logan, and celebrate Dad there at least once a year. He would love it.
The smallest things can mean so much!
Dad and I had so many dreams, big and small. I haven’t forgotten them; the ones that I’ve since seen manifested by other innovators as well as the ones that I haven’t seen manifested, that are still waiting—that I would love the opportunity to launch and build to success. Dad and I would dream of family trips and business trips. I haven’t forgotten. I’ve taken some and there’s more left on the list. I’m determined to take the family trips, to see my mom, sister, and Logan’s eyes light up; to look in the eyes of my children and see me in them, and my dad in them. It brings me joy to imagine that bright and bold future.
As Dr. Alduan Tartt wrote, “mom is the Most Valuable Person (MVP), but dad is the MIP—Most Important Person, in a daughter’s life….” and today I wish my MIP a very happy birthday!
I love you Dad!