August Journaling Day 27: Dad

I would say in all the journaling I’ve done in my life, whether on this site or elsewhere, the number one topic has been anxiety. Probably by a Secretariat like margin. But the Sham of blogging for me has been my dad. I do think the anxiety and him are probably somewhat intertwined and no doubt doing work on my relationship with him and his death helped with my anxiety issues.

I’ve told my dad’s story on this site many times. I’ve talked about his life, his death, and the effect of both on me. So I think I want to talk a little bit about what my relationship with him and his memory are now and then just some random thoughts about him. I just got home from an amazing weekend of racetracks, friends, and making great memories. As I was driving home tonight I thought about this topic and of my dad. Twenty years since his passing, my specific memories of him are fewer and far between. I have old stories that I think of and I can remember many instances of our time together. But in the last few years, dad as a concept for me is more of a feeling than specific memories.

What I mean by feeling is when I think about him or it’s a day to celebrate or remember him, I get this very familiar feeling. It’s a small knot in my stomach, a decreased appetite, and a general malaise that has a similar feeling to depression. It’s not depression, it’s not even in the same league as that, but on those days the blankets feel a little heavier to get out of bed. Going to the gym takes just a little more motivation to do. It’s just this strange heaviness that I feel when I really think about him. Father’s day, his birthday, and the anniversary of his passing are all within like a 6 week period in the summer. So maybe it’s just fresh on my mind because all those days passed. But when I think of him now, that heaviness feeling is what comes to mind.

A few days ago, I was driving home and a song came on the radio. It’s a country song from I’m guessing the early 90s called “Keep it Between the Lines.” It’s one of those great father/son songs and one I hadn’t heard for a long time. The first verse is kind of about the singer learning to drive and his dad’s confidence in him. The second verses are the lead singer now as the dad looking at his young son, and wanting advice from his dad that things are going to be ok. The song just wrecks me. “I’m right here beside you, and you’re gonna do fine. All you gotta do, is keep it between the lines.” I instantly got teary eyed and thought of my dad. But what’s funny is, my dad was NEVER the type who would have said such confidence inspring things like “I’m right here beside you and you’re going to do fine.” He would have said “what the fuck are you doing?” or “just do it pussy.” Now my Mom, she would have said the things like the song did. I think sometimes when I think and grieve about my dad, I think about him in a light that wasn’t really how he was. And maybe he could have gotten there eventually, he just ran out of time. But I’m doubtful. He was quite set in his ways.

I remember in counseling one time telling this story and thinking it was hilarious. My counselor looked back at me and said “At no point is this funny and all I hear is a father who is being so hard on his son for a mistake.” See, telling it now, I still think it’s funny, but I get where she’s coming from. So I give you, the reader, full approval to laugh at my pain here lol.

I had a 1983 Cutlass Ciera Brougham (humblebrag) as my first car in 1996. It was kind of a POS but it was my POS, a gift from my grandpa. So for a few weeks, the check engine light had been on, but the car kept running, so I didn’t think twice about it. That light had basically been on since I got the car. So one night I went down to the Golf Park to hit balls at the range. Upon ending my bucket of 300 yard bombs, I went to the car. It didn’t start. I tried again, nothing. So I called my mom to come pick me up. I went in and told the guy at the counter “hey man, my car is dead, but i’m going to come back tomorrow and jump it and move it.”

So the next morning, I asked dad if he could take me to jump the car. He said he could drop me off on his way to Emerald Downs because he had an early daily double he liked and wanted to get there by the first race. We pull into the Golf Park, my car’s not there. They towed it. So my dad went inside and yelled at the guy, explaining in his own way, what happened and confused about why they’d tow the car after I asked them not to. He came out to the car with money from them to pay for the tow as well as five free range bucket coins. Score!

The problem however was now he had to take me to the tow yard and his first post time at Emerald was coming up. So he asks me as we’re driving to the tow lot “what happened with the car, the battery just died?” I replied “I’m not sure, the check engine light had been on for several weeks though.” I could see the steam starting to rise off the top of his head. “What do you mean the check engine light has been on, did you go get it checked out?” “No,” I said. So when we pulled up to the tow lot he got the car and it was working, so the battery probably did die. But I’ll never forget the speech my dad gave me as I sat into the drivers seat. He stuck his head into the window and saw the check engine light was still on. He pointed at it and said “do you know what that’s called?” I said “that’s the check engine light.” To which he so kindly said “No, that’s the dumbfuck light. It’s used to tell the dumbfuck…..that’s you….that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.” His delivery of that line is what makes it still funny to me. “that’s you.” Yeah thanks for clarifying that dad. My dad was never the “it’s alright Jason, you’ll do better next time,” type. He gave tough love and often it wasn’t love. He parented from fear, a lot. And I worked through my anger about that and in the end, I hold him accountable for that, but I also forgive him. I think he was trying his best.

I do wonder what he would think about me as a 42 year old man. I have no doubts he’d be disappointed in me in some ways and proud in others. He was the ultimate example of there is very little black and white in life. It’s mostly gray.

Dad coaching baseball. He was at his best on the baseball field