Nearly thirty years ago, nearly half my lifetime ago, my father died of lymphoma. I was twenty-nine years old and dumb as a post, emotionally, at least.
But I thought I was all grown up. I was about to graduate engineering school and go to work in the corporate world. I didn’t know just how dumb I was. I wasn’t yet mature enough to know, to realize how people can influence our views with a word here, a word there. How people can instill their own hate and anger, their own bitterness into us just by repeating their catalogue of fear, day after day. I was raised to believe my father was a sorry, good-for-nothing man. And for a long time, I accepted it as truth. But as I grew older, I started to doubt it. Even before he died, I started to doubt it, but I wasn’t strong enough to act on it back then. Now I know. I finally recognized the truth for what it was. I was conned.
I allowed myself to be conned.
My father was a gentle person, an uneducated farmer kind of guy. But he was smart. I got my math genes from him. He was also wise enough to know that hard work means everything. That being generous and kind is far more important than being smart or right. He loved animals. And he loved me and my brother. More than I realized, until it was too late.
Some of my fondest memories are of treehouses and fishing, of following behind him as he rounded up the cows for milking, of walks through the woods looking for Christmas trees. Of him showing me just how beautiful bell peppers get when they ripen to red and purple.
I regret not getting to know my father better. I’m sorry I didn’t talk to him more. I’m sorry I didn’t learn more about him, his life.
I’m sorry I was so stupid.
Don’t waste the time you have. Trust your instinct about people. And talk to your father… your mother, your brother or sister. Whoever. Take pictures. Record their stories.
Maybe you’ll look back and think it was a total waste of time. But I bet you won’t.
Do it. While you still have time.