Happy Birthday Dad

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In honor of what would have been my fathers 66th birthday I am posting a story I wrote for him a few years before he was diagnosed with cancer.

Originally Written on Monday, February 05, 2007

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must assess his relationship with his father.
For me it was during the summer of 2000, when I was going about with my life. I was the prototypical party child with a laundry list of misdeeds. My relationship with my family was falling apart and the bond I should have had with my father wasn’t there.
This was a time of my life where the bar was the only place I needed to be and everything else took a back seat.
For years the bottom of a pint glass was the last memory of the night. Waking the next day only to try and recall how I got home and who that girl next to me was.
The bar became my life. Once the bartender knew my name and could pour my drink before I sat down I realized I had become a regular, that guy you could always count on to be there. I was stuck in the purgatory of life, living day to day and night to night.
It was headed down a track leading to jail or the grave and it was time for a change.
The first thing I realized when I took a step back was how disconnected I had become with my family and real friends.
I was disappointed when I looked back at the life I had made for myself. There was nothing to show after six years of college other than a swollen liver and black lung.
If I didn’t take control of my life I was going to lose any chance of finding a bond with my father.
When I was growing up my father and I would go on ski trips during the winter and sailboat races over the summer. I took those times for granted back then and never appreciated their significance.
I became bound and determined to mend the torn relationship with my father and decided the best approach would be to find a common interest.
I knew I would have to sacrifice some of my life if I wanted to get this other part of it back.
My father spent every Sunday morning on his sailboat, the seventh hull Tartan 30 ever built. I on the other hand spent that time sleeping off the night before.
This would be the opportunity I was looking for. I could handle getting up at sunrise if it meant saving the one relationship I never wanted to regret.
The first few months were rough, I can’t lie. But after a while, instead of it being a hassle to get up and sail, it became a privilege.
I started to enjoy the putrid smell of the river in the morning and the camaraderie amongst the crew. I began to prove to my father that I was serious about sailing and more importantly about bettering my life.
He was skeptical after the first summer but really started to believe once I started showing up consistently every week. We were progressing towards what I always wanted, his approval.
As the summers wore on, the relationship that I always feared would never exist began to grow. It was like a seed breaking through the soil to discover a whole new world it never knew existed.
The time we used to spend arguing and bickering was now filled with laughing and joking. With a little effort on my part my father began to see I was more than just a screw up, I was his son.
Eventually, I made my way to the front of the boat where I was put in charge of setting the spinnaker. Maintaining the fore-deck is one of the most crucial parts of the boat’s success and my father was giving me the responsibility.
A few botched sets and a couple last place finishes marred my first summer on the bow and I was shocked when I wasn’t replaced the next summer.
But as the bond between father and son grew so did that of the crew. Before we knew it we were winning races and life on the boat was exciting.
The success we encountered brought everyone on the boat together and with each race came another lesson learned.
The education I received on the boat carried over to life and lead to me graduating college, a feat I once believed to be impossible.
This past season was our best and the Windlassie took multiple firsts in the fall series. We are currently looking to upgrade the equipment for 2007 but the crew will stay in tact. You can always buy a boat new gear; what you can’t buy is the bond of a father and son.
Since I decided to make a change in my life I can see the difference in my family.
The father I spent years trying to avoid has become more than just my dad, but my friend.

By William L Huffman

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2 responses to “Happy Birthday Dad

  1. I just happened upon your blog. What a beautiful story of you and your dad. I just lost my mom last month to brain cancer, and my never-to-be-fulfilled longing to grow a relationship with her grows with each passing day. I’m so glad you had this time with your dad. What a blessing.

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