And then there is this.

B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay"
MAIRANAS ISLAND — Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” landing after the atomic bombing mission on Hiroshima, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)
By Js Kendrick

I’m in Okoboji Iowa today for a wedding. Very nice place, a little gem nestled away in the northwestern part of Iowa. 

The wedding will be the second I’ve been to this year. A busy year for me and my family. Two weddings, two family reunions, and three funerals. 

My brother-in-law lost both his parents this year. In the space of two months. Incredibly heartbreaking for him and his side of the family. Three months before my sister-in-law joined our family, her mother passed. Her mother would have missed her daughter’s wedding if not for my sister-in-law’s foresight to have a private ceremony beforehand. 

But today, we are at a wedding. A celebration of two young people who are about to commit to each other for the rest of their lives. Today, while it may be a little chilly, a tad overcast, and some rain, will all be forgotten or looked upon with silly nostalgia years from now. Today, will be a great day. October 21st, 2017. They will not forget this day.

And then there is this. I have not forgotten this day for the last 20 years. Today, 20 years ago, my father died. This is a grand day for some, as it should be. Yet it is a bitter day for me and my siblings.

Often I am asked, does it get better? Doesn’t…as the adage goes… time heal all wounds? No, it does not. Time puts things in perspective. It takes you from a fresh cut, to a scar that you always remember where it came from, and when you got it. A constant reminder of the pain you once endured.

As I had written in an earlier blog ‘Everything’s, my older brother Jay and I discussed everything one Saturday night. One of those topics was our Father. In what was probably not the nicest critique of our Father we were at least honest, and forthcoming in our thoughts. I do believe we would have told these observations to our Fathers face. Yet it was nice not to hear the “what do you know?” part. And in truth, he probably would have had a good point.

I knew my father, so did my brothers and sister. Yet in that classic statement, do we really know anyone? No, not really. Try as we might each of us are, in reality, our own little universe. Like scientist who constantly push the boundries we look at someone from the outside, only catching glimpses of who they really are. To say that parts of my father’s life are still an enigma to me is an understatement. 

If I could go back in time, I would ask him a million questions, things I would hope he would answer. Why, for the love of God, could he not hold a job? Three years, I think it was three years was the longest job he had ever held when I was growing up. He stayed in the same field, was good at his work, very knowledgeable. Yet still, the politics of business vexed him. It made growing up hard. 

He had a love of country like no other. The picture I chose for this blog was not some random picture. My father was on the island of Tinian, he saw the Enola Gay in person. That time of his life was very formative. It would shape a young man who grew up during the depression, who had very few skills and turn him into a mechanical engineer. He would be able to provide for his wife and four children. Rising in his career to become a Vice President of a company. Yet I believe that time also taught him a disdain for authority.

He believed firmly in classes of people. Not on racial lines but on social-economic lines. He felt people never rose above their classes, even though he himself rose above his. A point that he dismissed when I noted it to him. 

My father a man that valued his intelligence, yet looked down upon those who were ignorant on certain subjects. Had less tolerance for those who stubbornly believed they were correct even though the facts differed. I believe my brother Jay and I inherited that quality. 

After 20 years I still question things about my father. Questions I will most likely never get answers to. Yet, with this scar that is so clearly visible today, I do have perspective. He wasn’t a perfect person, maybe not a perfect father. Yet to me he was. To me, he was the best damn father a boy could ask for. And while I try to be like him in some respects, better than him in others, I wonder most, especially after that talk with my brother Jay, what will my children say of me? 

Being a father is not about perfection, but doing the best with what you have. The try is worth it’s weight in gold.

 

 

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Remember to kiss your father.

20160807_180706 (2)By Js Kendrick

 

“I love you daddy.” is a phrase I hear from my 6-year-old son several times a day. This is followed by a hug and a kiss. ¬†At times, he chooses the most inopportune times to do this, say when I’m cooking lunch, trying to do dishes, or writing my blog. Yet I still stop, take a moment, and tell him “I love you too Nick” and give him a hug and kiss back.

For me, the constant affection, which sorry to say, can be annoying sometimes. As in the case of me going to the bathroom with my smartphone (get it?) and hearing a knock on the door because someone wants to tell you they love you, is…well yeah, annoying.

Yet I will crack the door, tell him I am going potty, and that I love him. I do this all because once I forgot to kiss my father.

I must have been around 14, maybe younger, maybe older. I was going somewhere and as I was leaving for the day. I said goodbye to my dad and he held out his arms for a hug, which is usually followed by a kiss on the cheek from both of us. I hugged my father but I didn’t kiss his cheek as was our custom.

“Oh, getting too old to kiss your father huh?” was all he said. In truth I think I was in a rush, so the thought didn’t cross my mind, too wrapped up into where I was going. Yet suddenly, my father’s statement insulted my fledgling manhood. And it stung on several levels.

I thought about it while I was gone. Although mad at the stinging rebuke I thought that I should have kissed my father. What if it wasn’t just a slip of the mind and I purposely didn’t kiss his cheek? I started to regret my anger and felt remorse. I knew from then on, I would kiss my father goodbye.

The irony of the whole incident was that my father never gave it a second thought. He just made an observation, not a rebuke.

Yet I always remembered from then on to kiss my father. I’m an affectionate fellow. I will hug close friends goodbye (provided they are huggers too) and will do the same with family. My older two daughters usually take a kiss on the cheek with a little embarrassment or it might have something to do with my beard, not sure. Yet giving them a hug hello or goodbye is standard for me.

So Nick being affectionate is not a shock to me. And even as obsessed he is of late to tell me he loves me and wants a hug, I make sure I return those affections.

Fathers and Sons are an interesting mixture. Not unlike Mothers and Daughters yet for boys I believe there is an odd dynamic.

My father believed that sons always want to be better than their father, so there was this underlying competition. I’ve never believed that. My father was his own man, he was who he was, shaped by events of his life. My life has not been even close to my fathers experiences. I was never the product of a broken home, nor had an abusive father. I did not get drafted at 18 to be sent off half way around the world to fight in a World War on some godforsaken island in the Pacific Ocean. Nor did I learn mechanics from my time in the service and go to work in a factory in the Fastener Industry, moving up the corporate ladder to become Vice-President of a company. That was not, nor ever will be, my life.

In truth I couldn’t compete with my father’s life, and neither could he compete with mine. We were very different people.

Yet we did share commonalities besides being father and son. Both of us had a love of history, and a love of politics (yes, I will spare you any political opinions I might have). It was the love of history that I think was our deepest bond. My father being a veteran of WWII was extremely proud of the time he served. He would tell me stories and I would do my own research and ask questions. We would even go to reunions and gatherings together. Those are some of my fondest memories of my dad.

My brother once said to me that our father was always hard on me. More so than our father was on him or our older brother. I believe this to be true, yet I never knew why. Over the years I have come to the conclusion, and to hazard a guess, it was because I never felt I was in competition with him. Something he believed strongly in. Yet I know now, and knew then, that my father loved me, and in his own way, always wanted the best for me. I feel that he felt I could always do better, and this was his way of pushing me to push myself.

As in life, there is death. My father succumbed to bone cancer on Tuesday, October 21st, 1997. It was that Friday before, that I hugged and kissed my father for the last time. He would slip into a coma by late Saturday. Never to regain consciousness.

I would stay with him in his hospital room those last few nights, watching him, hoping against hope. A wide range of emotions goes though ones mind when you are on a deathwatch. And sure enough, my thoughts turned to that time I didn’t give him a kiss goodbye. Even though I had apologized for it so many years ago, and he didn’t think much on it, not even remembering the incident. It still gnawed at me all those years later. It may be a silly thing to fixate on, yet for me, to this day, it is my biggest regret in my life.

My son Nick will never know his grandfather except for stories. Stories I will gladly tell him and my three daughters over the years. Yet of all the things I can pass on to my son who in his time, like I have become, will be his own man someday. Is that it is still okay, at whatever age he may be, to kiss your father.