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Entry date: 11-28-2022 - Happy Birthday Dad - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Today is my dad’s birthday. I won’t say how old he is, but I will say that I hope I can maintain the same type of youthful outlook on life that he seems to have as I get older. For those of you who have the pleasure of knowing him, you know what a good guy he is. I owe so much of who I am to the example he has set for me.

As I learn more about what it is to be a father, I am constantly amazed at how well he handled my youth. All things considered; it could have been very different. He was always there for me when I was a young pup. He made sure I had what I needed and sacrificed a lot of his time and energy to make sure I felt loved.

To be in your mid-twenties and starting over with school-aged son had to have been hard, but he never made it seem that way. We had many adventures and he made sure that I learned how to be a man. He taught me to be respectful to women, even though he loves a good dirty joke. You can be both, you know. You can appreciate the baser things and still be respectful and my dad taught me this.

He taught me to appreciate a movie like Animal House, for example, but also the sharp, classic style of a show like Barney Miller or Soap. We went to the movies a lot and we would talk about them after we finished watching. It was a way that we bonded and I'm thankful for it to this day.

He also taught me to treat everyone with respect and that no one was better than anyone else because of where they lived or the color of their skin. I never realized how segregated Phoenix was until I moved to Berkeley in 1991, but because of my dad, I never felt like I was any better than anybody else or should look at people with disdain just because they were different than me.

Dad taught me about sports and how to play them properly. He was often the coach of my baseball and soccer teams growing up, and again, I now understand the time commitment and effort this was on his part. He was a good coach, too. Our teams had fun, and everybody learned something about the game. We might not have always won the championship, but we did enjoy ourselves.

My dad was very patient, too, because I could be a real prick on the field. I have a nasty temper and am very competitive. This combination sometimes reared its ugly head and I’m sure I embarrassed him on more than one occasion with my attitude. I got kicked out of my fair share of games. This was not how he taught me to play. This was all on my own.

We loved to go to Suns games, though, and he sacrificed again to get us season tickets to the games in the late 70s. We would often go down to the Madhouse on McDowell with my grandfather, Tom (my mom’s dad), and see the games. I would sometimes go sit with my grandfather for a quarter or two in the handicapped section, and often I would want to go early so I could try and get autographs as the guys came off the court after doing their shootaround. This couldn’t have been too exciting for him, but he never let on that he minded. I have a nice collection of autographs to this day because of him.

We also listened to the Dodger games on KTAR as often as possible. In those days, there was no such thing as the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Dodger games, along with the legendary Vin Scully, came across the radio waves all summer long. We were big Dodger fans and even made a pilgrimage to see the Dodgers play at Chavez Ravine one summer. That was a highlight for me, for sure.

I remember watching the game where Kirk Gibson hit the famous home run to beat the A’s in 1988. My dad and I were not really speaking then, but I remember wanting to call him and talk about it. Even when things were not great between us in my later teens and early 20s, I still thought about him in the big moments.

As I matured and came around to mending fences, our relationship has only grown. I am so glad that he and my stepmom, Lori, and an integral part of our family these days. We have come a long way and I am a better man for having my dad in my life. He might not realize it, but I often think about what my dad would do when I’m in a tough situation.

I know that I put him in a tough situation when I was a teenager, and I will always regret that. I would love to go back in time and tell my fifteen-year-old self a thing or two. I thought I knew how to behave, and I didn’t know jack shit. I have written a little about those years here and don’t want to rehash them today, but I have many, many regrets.

Luckily, though, time has a way of bringing things into perspective. Our family has grown, and my dad is a well-loved and respected part of our little group. All the kids love Grandpa Tom and Gramma Lori, and we enjoy our time together when we can. We have many laughs, and we all appreciate the easy feeling of just hanging out together.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you, as well, to my dad right now for all the support he has given me over the years with regards to music. He’s been to see quite a few of my shows and always seems to be having a great time, even he can’t always make out the lyrics. I love that he enjoys the spectacle of it all, too, and has been there for some memorable moments. I have to say that when he comes to see me play, it always makes me want to up my game a bit.

So, thank you, Dad, for all the things you have taught and shown me. You are still teaching me to this day, so if it doesn’t feel like I am paying attention, please know that I am. I appreciate how you handle the world with grace and respect yet are not afraid to get your hands dirty.

Oh shit, that reminds me of a story. When I was a boy, my dad worked at a company that did billboards around town. They had a huge shop (or at least it seemed like it to me) where they built the billboards and did all the painting and stuff. This was when they still had these amazing artists who painted the signs.

Anyway, one day my dad was going to do something in the shop area, and I yelled at him, “Don’t get dirty!” The guys who worked in the shop thought this was funny as hell and it came up from time to time. I think they enjoyed the heck out of busting his chops a bit, all in fun, of course.

Happy birthday, Dad! Don’t get dirty. I love you.

See you tomorrow.

This must've been about ten years ago or so. Dad was having a good ol' time and I love this picture.

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