Sixteen Candles

For those who have followed me for a few minutes, you’ve likely heard about my Dad; Doyle was the name others called him. Today, he would have been 82. He died in 2005; I held my hand on his chest as he took his last breath, and put my face next to his to feel the air exit for the last time. And the minute I looked up, and met my mother’s eyes, she pulled the sheet over his head, took my hand, and we walked out. I was 27.

In that very moment, I knew that contrary to what I understood to be true, it wasn’t my Mother that held our family together, it was my Dad. As my mother quickly walked one step ahead of me, with my hand held tight, she said, “you’re a good son.” Sixteen years later, those words continue to evolve, and come to mind at times it seems when I need the lift.

I’ve lived, and will continue to live a life of transparency, and openness. While to some it may seem reckless, perhaps too personal, telling, or unnecessary, I find it to be therapeutic, purifying, and will in short order separate the fans from the friends, and the givers from the takers. But most of all, it keeps me grounded, and insulates me from the man I never want to be. Life is not a popularity contest, nor are there any winners and losers at the finish line.

I’m unashamedly the son of an addict, and a hero, who happened to have filled the same boots that I never tried on, not only because they were too small, but because I chose a different path, but took his boots with me. What continues to surprise me as I mature as a man, a husband, father, and friend, I see my Dad more often, not only in the mirror, but in ways that only time can tell. I hear him in my voice, and feel him in how my son’s respond to my presence. I continue to gain respect for the Father I never knew I knew.

To my Dad, I miss you, and proud of the man you were, the path you laid for me, and I know you’d be happy to know that it just keeps getting better. Without you, there would be no legacy, and while that legacy will forever evolve, you will not be forgotten in my lifetime, or in those that carry the crest. I’m learning what it means to be a man; a real man, a man like you Dad. And that poem I wrote, well, while it remains true, I’d add a few lines…

I can only imagine – what life would have been without him.

No hero to chase

No boots to fill

No mirror to hold

Hotter summers and colder winters

No baseball leagues, or skiing in the snow

No hard lessons to learn or hard work to watch

No grape juice on Sundays


Even when you weren’t home, you were never gone.

You were the only man I knew, and one of only a few I’ve met since.

That your silence was a form of selflessness, and that responsibility met you every morning.

I dream big, because you missed small in the right places.

You showed me how to put my hand to a plow, and put bread on the table.

You showed me how to hustle.

You showed me how to treat people.

We were never hungry, and it was because you were always tired.

You taught me how to fight – and showed me how to finish one too.

You showed me all the good, bad, and ugly the World has to offer, and wore it all.

You showed me that Family is the only thing that matters, and treated many as your own.

Most importantly, you showed me how to love a woman, and I never saw that one coming. The grit, guts, and grace, in spite of the demons and dragons you wrestled to the ground day in and day out.

I love you Dad, and thank you for the provision, protection, love, and acceptance you freely gave. Thank you for supporting my dreams, and wanting for me what you never had, and putting in the work to make sure I had a chance to take a shot. I took it Dad, and I’m just getting started. You’d be proud of the man I’ve become, and the one I aspire to be. Sixteen candles are burning brightly on your birthday, for every year you’ve been gone, and to remind me of the birthdays you never missed, and the one’s I never would have had without you.

If your Dad is still alive, call him, love him, accept him, for all he is, isn’t, and most importantly for yourself. In death, the only suffering is in those who have regrets, un-forgiveness, bitterness, and resentment. If you still have a chance, avoid being one of those people. If that’s you, forgive yourself, because if he could do it for you, he would.

#humble #kind #hungry

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