Friday, December 19, 2014

Of Debts and Payment

And remember what I said.  
Being a father, it lives up to the hype.
- Charlie Skinner

Had he lived, WPK Sr would be marking his ninety-first birthday today.  He did not.  He fell just a bit short of the mark.  He died, on May 31, 1981, more than half a year shy of his fifty-eighth birthday.  

Dad - Christmas 1980 playing with the Coleco
"Electronic Quarterback" hand-held game I'd received.

Truth be told, my father had as much chance of living to age ninety-one as I do of being signed as the New York Rangers' 4th line center tasked with the responsibility of defensive zone face-offs on penalty kills and as my older brother Kelly has of ascending to the Papacy.  

He died far too soon to have ever made the acquaintance of Charlie Skinner.  Or Aaron Sorkin for that matter.  Whether he shared Mr. Skinner's sentiments or not was just one of any number of private thoughts he took with him to his grave.  

Over the course of the past three-plus decades that we have lived without him, I feel as if I have come to understand Dad much better than I ever did in the decade and a half or so that we spent together.  For better or for worse, I am my father's son.  A badge that I carry with me - as do both of my older brothers.  In the absence of him, I am lucky to have had both of them.  Each experienced things with him that I never did and given the disparity in age between each of the three of us, Bill and Kelly were each at different points in the road as it were in their respective relationships with him at the time of his death.  

I spend scant little time in the exercise of expressing regret.  As a relatively wise man once wrote, "I cannot undo what I have done."  In a perfect world, perhaps he and I would have spent more time during what turned out to be the final two years of his life enjoying each other's company than we did making each other's life difficult.  I have no WABAC Machine.  If Life has taught me one thing, it is that one rarely has access to it.  

We live the life that we live.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  It shall be for me as it was for my father.  I have the advantage - not of hindsight but rather - of knowing the manner in which certain decisions he made colored the course of his day-to-day.  He was a brilliant man.  Whether it was an inability to gauge the reaction to certain actions or a lack of interest in the reaction I know not.  I have come to recognize in myself - occurring with a frequency not as high as it once was but still higher than it should be - that same tone-deafness.  My experience with his has helped me immeasurably in my efforts with my own.  Although - truth be told - the rest of the world is a far better assessor of that statement's veracity and accuracy than I.

For the past quarter-century or so, Field of Dreams has been among my favorite movies.  I have a particular affection for it not simply because of its infusion with all things baseball.  My fondness for the film has far more to do with the examination of Ray Kinsella's relationship with his long-deceased father, John, and things not said while both parties were alive, which things became incapable of being said once that dynamic had changed.  Art imitating Life?  Perhaps.  

Oscar Wilde once observed that, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."  Even so, all debts end up paid in full.

There's no age at which you're
OK with your dad dying.
-Charlie Skinner

If you live long enough though then maybe, just maybe, you end up OK with the way the two of you lived the life you shared.

Happy Birthday Dad.  

Dad at Wardlaw

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