I get depressed get a bit moody every year about this time.
Jen helped me to see it one year and recognize what was going on. Many people get a bit of the winter blahs this time of year from dark days and cold weather. Mine is of a different sort. Today is the anniversary of the day my father passed away. Every year I get edgy and have to find a way to let out my feelings in some manner. These past few years I have written posts on Facebook or in my journal. This year, if you will indulge my catharsis, I would like to share a few memories of Mike Jackson and how he passed so many great things on to me.
My father was a middle american farm boy that was raised with what you would expect for values at that time and place – treat others with respect, be good to all, work hard, and love with all your heart. His life reflected all of this with service as a Michigan state trooper, his love of family and friends, and his willingness to do anything to help someone in need. I can remember all of the times he would without question, do what had to be done to help out a friend in need. In the bitter cold winters, when someone had gone off the road into a ditch near where we lived in the country, he would simply jump on the tractor and go help pull them out of the snow. No need for payment, just a handshake and a few laughs while making sure they were ok. If a call came from a friend in the middle of the night, you could bet that he would be ready to go anywhere to help them out. He loved being a Trooper and being able to serve and help those in need. Much of that was my influence in deciding to join the Navy out of high school.
When I was a young man, I got caught stealing something. I was out doing some chores when dad got home and saw him head into the house where he was undoubtedly filled in on what “his son” had done. I watched as he headed out to talk to me but could not look at him while we talked about what I had done. I heard his voice waver a bit and finally looked up at him. He said to me with tears in his eyes “I don’t know how I can go to work every day, knowing my son is nothing more than a common thief”. He turned and walked back up to the house. Getting hit in the head with a 2 x 4 would have hurt me much less than this did. I have never stolen anything since that day. Thank you dad for that.
During my senior year I decided to join the Navy. Many in my family questioned it but at a time when a teenage boy and his father were always arguing, dad seemed to respect my decision and gave me a bit more respect. He and I bonded during that last year of school and seemed to become best friends. I had many talks with him leading up to the days before boot camp and he gave me many bits of advice that I carry with me even today. Things like “CYA” or cover your a** seemed fairly straightforward. Others like “always be there for a friend” also seemed like second nature but I had been raised that way. I have a favorite out of all of them and it has guided me through many things. I shared it at my Navy retirement ceremony over a year ago and will share it here today also. “A man is only as good as the people he surrounds himself with”. I really did not see the full meaning of this for a long time. Today I cherish this life mantra and hold it dear. I have been blessed to be surrounded by an amazing family, have had been privileged to serve with some of the best this country has, and have been honored to have the group of people that are my friends who all make me who I am.
Dad loved to laugh. He was always that guy who had a quick joke or limerick and could help make anyone who needed it smile. It was infectious how he would enter a room and bring smiles to all there. Even when he was sick with cancer, tired and I am sure not wanting to do much at all, he would smile at me when I came home to visit and somehow make me feel better instead of the other way around. Even towards the end he seemed more worried about those around him than himself. A true gentleman.
When dad passed away, I was devastated. I think of him almost everyday. I wanted to say something at his funeral, to stand up and yell about how much he meant to all of us, but was so overcome by my own grief that I could not. When the pastor had come over to talk to all of us and prepare his eulogy, he asked for memories and insights into dad’s life. I was mute except for one sentence that to me summed up what my father was. I simply said – “he was my hero”. I don’t even know if anyone heard me when I said it but it holds true to this day. A son never forgets.
You could say that through all of these memories dad passed on his legacy to me. Be a good man, do what is right, help those in need, love your family and friends, laugh often. Simple things really but there is so much more behind them. But today while it is the anniversary of his passing, I try to do what I have all these years since. I write a little, remember a lot, share some of what dad passed on to me that makes me the man that I am, and have a toast to Mike Jackson. I will raise a glass of scotch tonight – something he also passed on to me – and honor him. I would be pleased if you took a minute out and did the same with whatever you may be drinking. I am sure Dad would smile and join in with us.
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