We all have our struggles in this life. Sometimes it’s easy to recognize the weaknesses of others and not see the good. That’s how I was. Especially when I was young. Especially when it came to my dad. More than once I promised never to be like him.
I grew up with great friends who all had great dads. It seemed to me that the relationships they had with their fathers were a step above the one I had with mine. There were some things my dad did that made me upset – add to that the fact that he was always too tired to shoot hoops, and it made for a bad combination when trying to build a solid relationship with a teenage son.
|My father, Howard Arkell, second from left.|
I remember being very hard on my dad. I can still hear the words from my father ringing in my ears: “I know I’m a horrible father.” He said it on more than one occasion, and it usually stemmed from me complaining about something he did.
Now that I’m a father I look back on his weaknesses a lot differently. In fact, it’s a lot easier to be more understanding. What’s hard to swallow is that the great things he did I’m just starting to notice, and now that he’s gone, I can’t properly give him the credit he’s due.
One night my boys were asking me for a story. So I told them of the day my dad bought me a BRAND NEW pair of basketball sneakers. They were white high tops with black stripes on them and I swear they made me jump two feet higher. They cost $80, which in today’s world would equate to $120. The first night I wore them I took great care to only have them on when I was in the gym. Once the pickup game ended, I changed into some other shoes and walked to the car, placed my new sneaks on the roof of the car, and fiddled with the keys to open the car door. I was basking in the joy of another great performance on the court, with these amazing new sneakers.
As I drove home, imagining the lucrative NBA deal that was sure to be part of my future, I realized I had never taken my sneakers off the roof of the car. I quickly pulled over, jumped out of the car, and my heart sunk as it hit me that my new prized possession, the key to NBA glory, my beautiful, expensive sneakers – were GONE. I drove back to the gym, trying to find them, but in the darkness of the late hour there was no hope. I had lost my sneakers on the very day they were given to me.
As I was telling my boys this story, I remembered something amazing. When I had gone home to tell my dad what happened, I don’t remember his reaction. That’s the fascinating part to me. I know that if he had flown off the handle and gotten angry, I would have remembered. But my only memory is this – the next day after searching for the sneakers on his way to work without any luck, he came home with a newly purchased pair of the same eighty dollar sneakers.
After I finished telling my boys this story, I thought of a moment earlier in the day when I lost my temper and raised my voice at my boy for spilling his milk. I remembered the way I overreacted earlier that week when one of their bikes scraped up against the side of our new van. I thought of all the small and insignificant things that my kids do and how I never seem to be able to let it go without belittling them. It was then I realized that my promise from years earlier was coming true in a much different fashion than I had expected – I realized that I never would be like my dad. The greatest attributes of my father were the ones that, as a child, I could not see.
Dad, wherever you are, and as shallow as this apology and statement is, please know that one day I hope to be the man you were. I’m sure you are looking down with empathy and a smile. Your wings are well deserved. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it.