A Letter to My Father

I ran across this from nearly ten years ago. Since it’s Father’s Day today, I thought that I’d run this again since I still feel the same way.

Dear Dad,

A month ago today, when last we spoke, we exchanged handshakes and snappy salutes. I noticed again that afternoon, as I always do, your silver U.S. Army Infantry ring, worn and smooth from the decades of wear, never imagining the next time I saw it, it would be surrendering it to accompany you in your urn.

Supporting Mom during those first days after our last salute kept me busy. Just as our family always has, we took care of business first. Mom and I went through your briefcase and pulled out the important legal documents and tried to figure out which bills would be coming due and when. Don’t worry, though – all of us got Mom squared away so that she’d continue to have income without interruption. Really, you saw to all of that through your prior planning and dedication. For me, it was just phone calls to the Army and the Railroad Retirement Board. No sweat. Gotcha covered.

The hardest thing I had to do – ever – was to leave you behind in that beautiful place you chose for you and Mom down in Dayton. I was fine through it all up until I had to leave. I rode out with the family to the entrance, saw them off, and got back in your car (which I’d been using, and yes, I filled up the tank when I was done) and went back up to see you again. I walked up, perfectly composed and stood near the temporary marker. Yeah, it was cliché, but I came to the position of attention and saluted you one more time and started walking back to the car for the two hour trip back home.

Yeah, I lost it then. Pretty badly, too. I sat in the car for a time and struggled with the understanding that I had to leave and the anguish of leaving you behind. But what’s done is done, I suppose. I finally put the car in gear, took one last trip around the grounds and headed home in silence, except for the few phone calls I made to let people know that it was done.

I’m lucky that we got to talk in the hospital, albeit briefly, and even luckier that at various points in my life, I’ve stopped to tell you that you’d raised all three of us right. That I was proud of you. And I admired you. All three of we offspring feel that way, you know. Just sayin’.

You’d be horrified to know that I’ve been posting photos of you throughout your life on the Internet. Yeah, that computer thing you keep hearing about that you wanted no part of. So yeah, you’re getting your dose of the internet now in spite of your revulsion for computers and technology.

I’m doing it anyway because I’m still proud of you.

Even with all the accomplishments I’ve enjoyed, the one thing I will never be is as good of a man – as good of a person as you were. You wrote the book on leading by example, not by intimidation. Cooperation, not confrontation. Thanks. I ‘preciate that. Your sterling example has served me well over the years, even though I know I still fall way short.

I have been telling people for years that when I look in the mirror or hear your words escaping my mouth unexpectedly, that I’m turning into my father.

Just so you know, I’m perfectly OK with that.

Miss you,

Dan

Here’s a quick shout-out to Andy, Jon, Garrett, and Nate – four of the best kids ever. I miss you all, gentlemen.

A Facebook Rerun

I posted this in late May on Facebook. I’m reposting it here so that if Facebook loses it I can find it here.

Last monday, I got to spend time with Nate and Garrett after a two-week absence. Knowing that I would be leaving again a few days after, I created a poster for them. When I got to the house in Ohio, I sat everyone down and presented these to the boys to post in their rooms, should they want to.

The text reads:

“Some things that I hope you have learned from our 10 years together.

Allow yourself to take care of yourself. A lot of people don’t. They put everyone else’s needs before their own. It’s okay to put some people before you, but not all of them because then you are left with nothing for yourself. It will save you a lot of grief in the long run. Always take care of yourself.

If you can choose kindness, always choose to be kind. There are few things in a person’s life that are more important than kindness. Sometimes it’s easy to be unkind because we think it will make us feel better. I’m this way sometimes, and I hate it because it never, ever makes me feel better. Not even for a minute. So, if you can choose kindness, always choose to be kind.

Let the people around you know that you care. It doesn’t just have to be the ones that you love most deeply, but anyone for whom you have any affection at all. Make sure you tell them that you enjoy their company, love them, or that you’re proud of them – whatever is appropriate for your feelings about that relationship. People make assumptions about your feelings, and they shouldn’t. Let the people around you know that you care.

Always set the example. People learn a little bit about you from the words that you say. They learn much more about you from the actions that you take. In fact, I’m sure you know the old saying that “actions speak louder than words.” That’s absolutely true. Kids will watch you and learn from you. Your friends will watch you and learn from you. Make sure you give them an example worth following. Because the truth is, actions are really the only thing that matters. Always set the example.

You will succeed at these things because you are, at your very hearts, good people. Like me and like everyone, you’ll fail sometimes, and sometimes quite spectacularly. What counts isn’t the failure, but how you conduct yourself afterward. Don’t let one incident define you. As long as you take care of yourself, choose kindness, let the people around you know that you care, and set the example, there’s not a single situation that you can’t come back from.”

I just love those two. ❤️

“Road” Trip to Mars!

Back in September of last year, I stumbled across a NASA website describing the new Mars Lander scheduled for launch July 20 at 6:15 a.m. PDT (9:15 a.m. EDT).  NASA offered the chance to send your name aboard the Mars Perseverance Rover etched into a chip placed on the rover. 

I thought this was a terrific idea for the family, so I registered the four of us and, lo and behold, we four were among the 1.2 million names that made it.

NASA sent an electronic boarding pass for each of us verifying that our names would be making the 140-million-mile trip to the Red Planet, the average distance from Earth.  At its closest, Mars is roughly 38.6 million miles from Earth.  Since the path to Mars depends on many variables and is not a direct shot, I am not sure of the actual distance the Perseverance Rover will take to get to Mars. Edit: Turns out that the actual distance is printed on the boarding pass itself in the bottom right-hand corner. The Perseverance Rover will travel 313,586,649 miles on its journey from the Earth to Mars.

I thought the boarding passes looked really cool, and the rest of the family surprisingly agreed. I had intended to post them back then, but it didn’t happen.  However, today’s the day! Better late than never, huh?

Here’s more details about the mission from the NASA website:

“The Mars 2020 spacecraft with its Perseverance Rover will launch on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  The Atlas V is one of the largest rockets available for interplanetary flight.  This is the same type of rocket that launched the InSight and Curiosity to Mars.  The launch vehicle is provided by United Launch Alliance, Centennial Colorado.”

And here’s a mission fact sheet. You’ll need a PDF reader to see this one.

Here are our four boarding passes.  Nice to know that the family will be together for the duration, even if it is on another planet.

Many would likely agree that another planet would be just the right place for the four of us.