Choosing to live a life on the road has not come without sacrifices. I just found out that a person who had a profound influence on my life recently passed away. He was like a father to me after my father’s death. Once we were stateside, I was planning to bring you and your mother to meet him. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen soon enough. We will, however, visit his resting place.

It was three days too late when I became aware of his funeral. Had I known about it in time, I definitely would have tried to attend. His wife’s e-mail didn’t get to me as quickly as she had hoped because I previously abandoned most of my Gmail (e-mail) accounts sometime last year. I should have let him know. If it wasn’t for a login code needed immediately, months, maybe years, could have gone by before discovering his time was up. I’m sure that I either would have called or googled his name, eventually, after sending an e-mail or two. He didn’t reply to my last e-mail about my mother’s death but had come to her funeral.

One of my earliest memories of him is from the first grade. Soon after receiving my first report card, I remember that he looked disappointed after telling him about my grades by the front door. I was proud of getting straight Cs up until then. My mother didn’t tell me otherwise. He taught me how to count, specifically add and subtract, during our time together on the weekends thereafter. I still can picture sitting in the passenger seat of his black Alfa Romeo convertible and learning addition with him while he was driving on the outer loop. Sometimes he’d take me around his hometown for the day, which is where we were probably headed. I went from thinking a number plus any number was the first number plus itself to being the fastest at accurately adding and subtracting numbers in my class.

Making him a fixture in my life was my mother’s idea. She recognized that I needed a male role model. While watching cartoons in the living room on one afternoon, the commercial for a new Care Bear stuffed animal aired again. I really wanted one, embarrassingly, and had asked her for it. She never got me a Care Bear. Rather, it has been my belief that’s the reason she contacted a local organization for help. She was afraid that I’d turn out gay.

We spent a lot of meaningful time together during my formative years. I, typically, saw him on Sundays for a half day with some exceptions. He would pick me up before noon and drop me off in the late-afternoon or evening. We would go in, around and occasionally out-of-town. He exposed me to the world through his eyes. We, mostly, did ordinary things like going to a museum of sorts, catching a Sunday matinée or grabbing lunch at McDonald’s, but sometimes did more extraordinary things like going skiing, attending a live sporting event or spending a weekend at his sibling’s vacation home. Keep in mind, even the ordinary things were extraordinary to me. All those experiences were invaluable to my development. He was invaluable to my development. I wouldn’t be the same person without him.

Here’s some of what he taught me:

  • Tying My Shoes – My mother wasn’t having any luck with teaching me how to tie my shoes. Her two-loop method wasn’t clicking. I had no success attempting it on both my foot and the teaching aid for months, probably. After entering my life, he taught me how to tie my shoes using the one loop wrap around method, which I still use to this day. I’m not sure how long that took me to learn but it happened in considerably less time than my mother had spent. That’s when I reluctantly went from wearing shoes with Velcro straps to ones with laces.
  • Man Up – He and his wife travelled around the world to ski. With my mother’s permission, he took me skiing several times to slopes a few hours away from my home. After completing two group training sessions and several trips down both the bunny/easy and more difficult slopes, he took me on a black diamond. To this day, I remember anxiously staring down the mountain from the top at what looked to be a 45-degree slope full of moguls. Somehow, he was able to talk me into skiing down it. Although I can’t recall being scared, I’m sure that I was. Mind you, it was my first-time skiing. Even if I was a skilled, seasoned skier, I don’t think I’d be brave enough to take you on a black diamond until we’re capable.
  • Well-rounded – My mother couldn’t drive and didn’t have much money. She, alone, wasn’t capable of taking me a few miles away from our home because we had to walk. He opened my eyes up to the outside world. For a fact, I wouldn’t have been able to do 99% of the things that we did together during that time of my life plus the next decade or more, if ever. I’ve benefited from the experiences he gave me a countless number of times. They’ve proven to be lifelong lessons. I became, comparatively, well-rounded because of him.
  • Coolness – He always had a cool car and a time-appropriate sense of style. Except for when he drove his company’s pick-up truck, I got to drive around the town in one of his convertibles or coupes. He’d drive with the top down and windows up even if it was freezing cold outside. I’m not sure if his sense of style rubbed off on me, but definitely his choice of car. I’ve only ever owned a convertible or coupe.

We lost contact during my teenage years. It was my fault. I was a very selfish, rebellious teenager. Although we had seen each other a handful of times over the last two decades, which included the time he had picked me up from a police station after getting in trouble as a minor when my parents were out-of-town, I wasn’t able to re-establish a relationship with him. That’s my fault, again. But I had every intention of visiting him this year if time hadn’t run out. He has always been in mind. Not making any effort to include him in my life is something that I’ll always regret. There are no excuses.

Honestly, I forgot much of what he had done for me during my childhood and, as a result, failed to realize the magnitude of his influence on my life. A large part of who I have become either reflects or originated from him. I’m very thankful. Eternally thankful. I hope to give to you everything that he had given to me. He is part of the reason for your name.

Without him, the life that I’m living wouldn’t exist.

Thank you.


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