I was going through my father’s stuff this week and I came across a series of professional notes and emails he had written from 2008-2010 that he titled “Defense.” Most of it is about banking philosophy that reads like Latin to me. “82% of our classifications are these purchased participations. Many of our internally generated classified loans are not substandard….” At first I thought it was just a series of bank documents that I could discard, but I read a little more and I began to see that the documents were a series of notes in which he was defining himself to the people he worked with towards the end of his career. The first line that really caught my attention was the note headed “If I were da’ King.” While much of the banking language that followed was foreign to me it included lines like, “attack more aggressively,” and “recognize the difference of our officers, play to their strengths and weaknesses.” In this 50 page document I heard my Dad’s voice clearly for the first time since December. I was able to smile as I read, “Frequently I am better off keeping my thoughts to myself. However…” My various bosses would recognize that as a start of a message I might write. As a matter of fact it is the start of any number of messages I have written. While my Dad and I talked often I hadn’t read a lot of his writing. It is eery how much his writing resembles mine. It is filled with grammatical errors and non sequiturs, but it is clearly written in his voice. It sounds like my Dad, which makes me smile.
My Dad had often talked about writing a book. He wanted to share his story of a kid from a pretty poor family who grew up in a small town and ended up talking to Presidents and running over 30 banks. He never wrote the book, but after he passed away I found a file on his computer that said, “To Brogan.” Brogan is my son, so I opened the file and saw that it was a lengthy letter. I read the first few lines and then decided it wasn’t for me and I forwarded the file to Brogan. What a great gift my Dad left for his grandson. I know it mostly tells that story about the poor kid from Elm Creek, Nebraska. While I heard his stories many times, my son had not. In many ways my son’s memories of my Dad will forever be tied to that letter. I think my Dad found comfort in writing about his experiences much as I do.
So, it is my first Fathers Day without my Dad. It is going to be tough. I miss him. I miss our calls. I am sad that I wasn’t able to share my new professional journey with him. He would have been proud that thousands of people read my political opinions. What I miss most is his honesty. He was the most honest man I ever met. I didn’t always appreciate his honesty in the moment, but I came to treasure it. Because he was so honest I knew that when he told me that he loved me he really meant it.
It took my Dad and I 47 years to build our relationship. It had its ups and its downs. I am only 16 years into this fatherhood thing and I’m still working on it. At my last concert as a high school band director I looked over at my son (a gifted euphonium player) and we locked eyes for a few seconds. It was an honest moment that didn’t require any words. I am sure that my remaining years as a father will have ups and downs but I am lucky that I had a good role model. My son will likely hear me say, “Frequently I am better off keeping my thoughts to myself. However….” Hopefully he will be able to smile when he hears that like I am smiling today.