My father would have rathered enjoyed a large gathering on a day like today. That is if it meant much to anyone else. He wasn’t as closed off like many thought of him as being. He was always honest with me with what went on not long after with everyone. Emotional and mental health he would consistently cite as his reason. He made sure I was always grounded about those in my life but still give them the benefit of the doubt.
Let me tell you about the man I was incredibly proud to call my father.
Just before I was born, he wrote two things on a whiteboard with a green marker. The first was an Irish saying, “May you live for as long as you want, but may you never find yourself wanting for as long as you live.” The second simply said, “You will get through this!” He would often explain why he wrote: “this”, instead of something specific. I can recite his explanation by heart even to this day. It always amused him repeating it along with him.
“If you’re having a bad day, it gets tiring writing the same message over and over again. But if you just say ‘this’, then it can never be wrong. If that’s never wrong, then you’ll always overcome a bad day.”
By the time I got into college, those words didn’t much to me. Then, everything changed.
I found one of dad’s old D&D (or Dungeons & Dragons) books when I came home for Winter break from school. Well, it was more of a short high fantasy novel based on the board game. He would read to me that book every night I got to spend at his house. Soon after, it became a tradition. We even began watching Pokemon every Saturday morning. I can’t tell you how many times we watched the entire series and spin-offs. But it was the books that I looked forward to the most.
He…well, he knew he didn’t have the sporadic and comedic nature as his late brother had, but he still tried. Each night, we would try to read as many chapters as possible. Sounds boring, sure, but he found a way to make it fun. All the faces, voices, quirks, flaws, all of them. Some of them were borderline Michael Scott of The Office level of cringe. But that’s what made those moments all the more special. And I can’t remember a time anyone else made me laugh more or louder.
“Unless we learn to know ourselves, we run the danger of destroying ourselves.” he would quote to me often. Books and experiences alike were his way of accomplishing learning about who you truly are. Not only that but how to remain true to yourself.
My father knew that growing up in two different households would have a greater toll on my mental & emotional health. Just as the leader he is of his own D&D group, he made sure books would always be there for me for positive coping mechanisms. I realize as I say that it makes it sound as though it was rough growing up. Looking back, it wasn’t all that bad. My parents remained the best of friends as they could realistically be and I was not without ever noticing the way they still looked at each other.
Though she remarried and had another child not long after, my father would do his best still to lead by example. I knew deep down he felt otherwise but to him, there was no other way about it. We even had a running joke where I would ask him what books were going into his “bag of holding” that week. Crude, dark humor but we would always share a laugh about it.
Even though he is no longer here with us, I can still hear his ridiculous laugh. And how sometimes he would get a good belly laugh in till he couldn’t breathe, tears streaming down his face.
In a letter he wrote to me once, well, he wanted me to call it a “letter” but it was an email, he said he enjoyed being the DM (or Dungeon/Game Master) more than being a player. To him, it was the perfect exercise in seeing, learning, and understanding all points of view & perspectives. That made him a better DM but also a better person.
But more importantly, he was showing how I could “build a kingdom” of my own someday.