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Column: Quiet heroes, silent icons

Posted: June 18, 2018 3:34 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Father’s Day was this past Sunday. I hope dads everywhere got a little love -- lord knows, they deserve it.

True, for most dads, my guess is that Dave Barry’s take on the whole Father’s Day thing is spot on. That is, dad finds the whole Father’s Day thing utterly ridiculous, possibly even a little -- annoying.

But just because dad doesn’t really want any forgettable, useless gifts, nor does he want to go out to some fru fru restaurant for dinner doesn’t mean he doesn’t want his kids’ to show a little love. His way of showing love may be a little different -- noogies, baleful stares, and/or use of quaint affectionate phrases such as, “will you get the hell out of here; I’m trying to sleep, for crying out loud,” but make no mistake, dad loves you, even if he has trouble remembering your name -- or in my case, somehow confuses your name with the name of the son of God.

I think about my dad often; indeed, I have written about him often in this and other forums over the years. That is because I love him and miss him every day, even though he has been gone from this side of the veil since May 27, 1986. That day still brings waves of pain, sadness, occasionally even utter desolation. It’s still quite difficult to wrap my head around it, even more than thirty years after the fact.

And yet, not a day goes by that he doesn’t have a pretty good piece of advice for me, or even better, finds some way to crack me up. I try to explain that bit of weirdness to friends who suddenly find themselves joining the same club -- he’s not right here, but he’s not gone, either. In fact, he’s a lot closer than you think.

I look around, and I still see those 16 and 17-year olds that were me and my friends just a couple of days ago. But time, as Steve Miller told us back in the ‘70s, keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. What that means is we are reaching that age when we have to say these goodbyes a lot more than we used to.

It’s a natural and inevitable part of life. And it sucks; it really, truly sucks.

One goodbye this community recently had to make was to Joe Parsons, who passed away earlier this month. Joe leaves behind his lovely wife, two sons who are long-time friends of mine, and several grandchildren, to name a few. Sadly, I had not seen him in quite awhile (or any of them, for that matter, being the lousy friend and all-around sorry individual that I am) but in my mind’s eye, I will always remember this kindly, sharp-witted, humorous, upstanding man. Joe Parsons was a very positive influence for a lot of people -- and he probably didn’t even know it, or if he did, he probably would never have acknowledged such. While I like to think he would appreciate such sentiments, my guess is that, if I had told him (especially way back in the day) he was a positive influence on my life, his reply would have been something along the lines of, “thanks, but don’t blame me.”

On the other hand, his impact and influence, like the man himself, is quiet but profound. It’s something that one might not even realize is there until later on down the line. But it’s there, it’s important and it’s a great -- and greatly appreciated -- gift.

Let me see if I can explain that. You see, I love and respect my dad and can see him in a lot of the things I do; his perspective is obviously going to color mine a great deal. Indeed, I find myself becoming a lot more like him the older I get. And I’m OKwith that. In fact, I relish it.

But I believe it’s also very important, even vital, for young guys creeping up into manhood to have good men as role models across the whole spectrum of life. I was incredibly blessed; I had a great father and, happily, so did most of my friends and Joe Parsons was one of those men. Indeed, I realize he, along with a number of my friends’ dads who I really liked and respected, is one of those calming, thoughtful perspectives and influences I didn’t even realize I remotely possessed -- and might not have it at all if I hadn’t known him. He’s probably that guy -- neither angel nor devil, neither condemning nor condoning – sitting on my shoulder saying, “are you sure you really want to do that?”

I suppose there are a couple of points to all this rambling. One, for those who are blessed to have their fathers still with them, be thankful and cherish every moment like it’s your last -- trust me on that one. Two, for those who are blessed to have had wonderful fathers in their lives, be thankful and cherish the memories, for the gifts he gave you will help guide you and the memories will sustain you during the more rugged moments.

Finally, if you are blessed to know and learn from great men in your life, be thankful for their gifts, take those lessons and aspire to be more like those who imparted them -- and keep on trying. True, ideals are impossible to live up to, but as the late, great Leo Burnett once said, “if you reach for the stars, you may not get a star, but you won’t exactly grab a handful of mud, either.”

Thanks, Joe, and Godspeed.

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