Today is Father’s Day, 2021, a well-earned time to recognize, thank and remember how critical of a role it is to be a Father. Hopefully, most will have the chance to spend quality time with their Father or Dad, and thank them for their love, care and support. For me, today is my first Father’s Day without being able to see or talk to My Dad. You see, it’s been almost nine months to the day since My Dad passed away suddenly, and the emptiness and loss is indescribable to someone who has not experienced such pain. While I and the rest of my family continue to grieve and wrestle with the void in our lives, today I want to share some wonderful memories of him in honor of his day. Below is a personal tribute to My Father…My Dad…My Hero.
Growing up, My Dad was more than just My Dad, as he made it his mission to be present and involved in everything I did. As a result of growing up very poor, and without a good relationship with his Father, My Dad took on the responsibility of being a Father with 100% commitment and involvement. When I began to get involved in sports activities, he became an assistant coach and practiced with me to improve. In school, he made it clear an education was paramount, and expected me to commit to studying and achieving good grades, but supported me in every way he could. Even as I moved into high school, he balanced his sometimes atrocious business travel schedule with never missing a game or event of mine, even if it meant taking long flights or “red eyes.” As a young boy, all I knew about My Dad was he was tough, but he was caring, involved and was always there to support me. It wasn’t about the things he bought me, or where we lived that mattered. It was his constant and obvious effort to be a good influence and role model in my life that helped form the foundation of the man I eventually became.
My Dad took great pride in his career, and progressed from loading trucks as a child too young to work, to working in the logistics field, to eventually running the entire supply chain for a global company. He would have dinners with logistics suppliers sometimes, and would invite me to join them, which was a great learning experience. My Dad was always transparent and honest with them, sometimes turning down “incentives” while talking to me about the importance of integrity. He was a fierce negotiator, but never attacked people personally, and could read another person’s intentions with great precision. He would readily admit he wasn’t the smartest student in school, but when it came to problem solving, developing solutions and finding a negotiated way forward, he wrote the book.
On the other side of the “street”, My Dad and I shared a common love of racing. Formula One and NASCAR dominated our conversations while the intense road racing skill of drivers at Le Mans and across the U.S. at tracks such as Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, Road America and Circuit of the Americas constantly left us in amazement. My Dad watched the phenomenal racers of the 60’s, including the incredible story of the Ford GT40 and it’s 3-year reign as the Le Mans champion. The two of us together in front of one is a favorite picture of mine.
A Relationship Well Traveled
As I began my professional career, My Dad was supportive every step of the way. Through every challenge or misstep, or with every promotion or accolade, My Dad was a sounding board, a confidant and the person who kept me grounded. He was (and is) always my father; but he became more than even My Dad. He became my male best friend. I think we built a mutual respect and trust that saw us speak several times per week, share stories about common areas of interest, and genuinely enjoy spending time together. After My wife and I had traveled to Poland for one of our many World War II adventures, I recall My Dad inquiring about making a similar trip on his own. The fact that I had done it, and could help him navigate the uncertainty, helped encourage him to take two weeks and see a part of the world that was full of places he had voraciously read about in so many of the history books in his vast library. He felt a great sense of accomplishment, and I felt a great sense of pride in helping him achieve a life-long goal. We had the chance to travel again, together, when Dad and Mom stayed with us in Normandy to honor the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, pictured above.
A Picture Worth A Thousand Words
Since My Dad’s passing, this year has been a year of firsts. My Dad absolutely LOVED Christmas, being the biggest kid in the world when it came to the spirit of Christmas, the togetherness & celebration of family, the fun of presents and even the well-worn traditions we all know and love. Not having him here to celebrate his favorite holiday was a gut punch for all of us. I spent some time at his crypt, reading the card I bought for him, and sharing with him how much I miss him, and it was at that exact moment a beam of light streamed through the clouds and shown right on us both. I like to think it was him saying “I hear you.”
Happy Father’s Day
To all the Fathers and Dads out there today, there is not anything more important you will do than be a good teacher, mentor and loving father to your child. To My Dad, I am so grateful to have had the pleasure of your teaching, your mentorship and love. You are, and always will be, My Hero and I am so grateful and blessed to be your son. I love you, Dad.