I belong to a very special club. There are no membership dues, although the price to get in is the ultimate one, and it isn’t paid by any of the members themselves. To be a member, you don’t apply, you don’t get an interview or even have to perform some crazy ritualistic maneuver. You simply have to bury someone. I didn’t say it was a fun club to be a member in, nor are people knocking on the door to be let in, but it is an exclusive club nonetheless, and today is the day of our annual meeting.
I have been a member since 2001, January 28th to be exact. Most members can tell you all the details of the day they entered into the Dead Dads Society, even up to the hour, minute and sometimes second. I can tell you where I was, in Waco, Texas, sleeping in my bed when I got the call about my membership, and like most members, I cried, and not out of excitement. I can even tell you all the things leading up to that day, like some magical spell was placed on me, like I have been hypnotised and can now pull back memories that I would have never been able to recall on my own.
Up until then, I really didn’t know much about the club or its members. I assume the club has been around since the beginning of time, and most of its members don’t go around chatting about the exclusivity of it. Some do fine, they don’t care to be there nor do they talk about the reason they are members. Others can’t get over the fact they are part of the club, and that haunts them for most of their days.
I do well with my membership. The first couple years may have been a little rough, but you learn to look at the good and try to forget about the bad. The best way to sum it up is that we members are basically sailors in the sea of memories. Some days it is calm sailing and we enjoy the beautiful waters that carry us through life. Other days, the storm may hit, the water becomes violent and one must hold on tightly to survive. Over the years, one becomes a better sailor, learning to steer clear of the bad waves and to stay in the calm of the beautiful waters. For some members, all they know is stormy waters, and those are the members that we try to help the most.
I have lots of friends that are members now. I am sad that I was not able to attend their membership entry, but they know I was there in heart and in spirit. You make phone calls or send emails, talking about the loss of the man that gains them entry into our club. I try to reach out to those that I know are new, that may not know about the storms that may come. But sometimes the days after membership is given, new members don’t want to hear about that. They just want to sit on the shores and remember the loved one whose memories they are about to sail on for the rest of their days. They want to swim in the waters, to savor the last few moments of the love and memories they are afraid they may lose, but soon they will build their ship, and soon they learn to set sail.
Now that I am a dad, I realize that one day my own son may be a member, and I hope that day is far far down the road for both of us. My job while I am still here is to make sure the memories he will sail on one day will be wonderful ones, ones that carry him to beautiful places. That he will enjoy reliving the moments that defined our relationship and he will find more peace than sorry when the day of his membership arrives. When the day he becomes a sailor arrives.
I have wonderful memories, I have calm waters. I have been through the storms, but I now know how to avoid them, or at least navigate those waters better.
Today I will celebrate being a Dad, all the while celebrating not having one anymore. It is a strange dichotomy, but one that almost is a beautiful dance of the two. I have learned how to be a better dad by having one myself, but I have also learned how to be a better dad by not having one anymore. Sometimes when you don’t have someone to show you the ropes, you have to roll up your sleeves and learn the hard way, but sometimes the hard way is the best way, because you make it your own style, your way. Being a dad is a wonderful thing, and perhaps that’s why being a member of our club is so hard at times, but we pull through it, and like F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” A past that for many, is full of good memories.
I hope your boat has happy sailing on memories of your dad on this day. I hope that all of you that are members of the Dead Dads Society have a good day, even if that involves a good cry. I will be thinking about you all, and the wonderful men that left us, that made us members of the club I’m sure they didn’t want to put us in. I hope you have a wonderful day of sailing, and your sails are full, and the sun beats bright and warm on your face. May your waters be calm and your memories good.
Happy Father’s Day.