I would hate that due to the subject of this post, it would be assumed that this is a slight against my mom. For those who have met her, the thought would not cross their mind at all. Yet, for those across the internet landscape who have not had the pleasure, I assure that she is the most loving, thoughtful, and perfect mother that any person would be lucky to be the son of.
However, I want to talk about my Dad.
On my run this morning along the hills of a town I met as San Luis Obispo, but grew to love as SLO, I thought about fear. Not fear of flying or wild animals, but fears of the more primal nature. I do believe that above all, the greatest fear to humans is a fear of the open-ended result. Nothing has bothered us as a species over time than the question: “What if?” There is always the belief that no matter where we are at, if it is truly the end, that there exists some side dimension where different steps were taken and therefore exists an entirely different version of our present selves. However, due to our knowledge of time and belief that there is a future (the amount of trust that we have that the next second will occur, a belief we base on the fact that it happened the last time we wondered) we tend to always think that this current state of being is endless. This fear that I discuss, the open end, I think is enveloped in many different more common or simple fears. Fear of death has long been a thought in our race as deeply ingrained as the idea of birth. What starts, must have some end. Unless the perpetual motion machine we have always searched for is the human soul, but I digress.
I find it difficult that in a day and age featuring cell phones, Facebook, Tweeting, and a multitude of other “next-big things,” communication is still at a point as low as it is. I believe that due to these increased channels, our conception of communication seems endless. The thought that there’s an infinite amount of opportunities to communicate my thought, taking the urgency out of the current moment. This seeming disregard for the present has led to a trust in modern medical science that despite over 3,000 years of documented evidence indicating otherwise, that WE will be the generation that lives forever, and that we will always have a chance to communicate.
It’s a grim topic, I know. It’s kept me up many nights just thinking about it. But, I do think that the greatest failure in this day and age is that disregard for the mortality of our relationships or communication. Why is it that the praise of the dead is so high after they pass away? Why must eulogies be given at funerals?
I was gifted with what I believe to be the greatest Grandparents in the existence of modern man (such a rare belief, I know). They were not rich or extravagant and like all people, they had their faults. However, I look up to them as Gods. They were hard working, intelligent individuals who if I were to be a fraction of the person they grew to be, I would be satisfied. I wish that I could tell them that. How much I loved them, how much I miss them, and ask them for help when I’m in trouble. My great open ended problem is that I never told them enough when they were alive. I know deep down, that they understood these thoughts, yet I will always have wish that I had a little more time.
That brings me to the original subject of this post, my dad. By no stretch of the imagination is he close to passing away (thanks to a Million-Dollar Man-esque surgery on his heart last winter), so this is not a eulogy or a sad moment, but rather an expression of my appreciation for the only real hero I’ve had my whole life.
The most important relationship for any son as he grows up is the relationship with his father. While time spent with my mom has taught me more than I could fathom, I truly believe that the main job of a dad is to be the role model to his son. My dad has been that role model, for better or worse.
I remember when I was younger, waiting for my dad to get home from work. Now my dad isn’t an astronaut or a firefighter, or some sort of grandiose idea that a kid would hope to grow into, my dad is an Attorney. He works long hours every day, including Sundays, to make sure that my family can live a comfortable life. I’ve never seen someone so dedicated to their work in any field and don’t believe I will for the rest of my life. My father isn’t one to invest money in the stock market or other “get rich quick schemes” so every dollar my family owns, has been through the work he and my mom have accomplished.
So, as a small child, waiting for my dad to get home I remember eagerly sitting on the couch looking at the clock. My dad would get home and immediately would spend time with his 4 kids, be it chasing Mookie, our pet lab, in the backyard or my favorite activity, which was when I got to climb up my dad as if he were a mountain. It sounds simple but for a kid that spent the early years of his life undersized and told he was a “shrimp” on a daily basis, nothing made me happier than the view from on top of my dad’s shoulders.
After he was done and settled from work, he would (and still to this day) turn on the Lakers game. My dad is a big Los Angeles Lakers fan. Not to the point of many current fans with flags on their car and a complete disregard for any other team, but to the point that watching a game with him is almost unbearable. You see, my father likes to know why things happen. It’s one of his better qualities and something that has helped his knowledge grow. He would stop, rewind, stop, fast forward, and rewind over and over to see how a Kobe Bryant dunk that the crowd takes for granted, actually happened. Although I’m really not much of a basketball fan, I do appreciate the concept of looking beyond the immediate reaction and learning why things occur the way they do. My dad’s knowledge of basketball was a great asset during his career as announcer of the Calabasas High School women’s basketball games. (Side note: He once used the famous Chick Hearn “game in the refrigerator” line in a game against Santa Paula, and was accosted after the game by a not so pleased fan from the visiting side)
Despite his dedication to his work, my dad is an amazingly humorous person and it’s reflected in his daily activities. My dad has on many an occasion passed the phone around to his kids so they could all say hi to the telemarketer who had called during dinner. Be it a smart move or not (I prefer the former), my dad showed to me and my siblings at a young age, the world of Monty Python, something I credit to my current case of anglophilia. My dad showed me the parrot sketch, a man with a tape recorder up his nose, and many, many more ideas that have directly led to the (slightly silly) person I am today. It’s the disregard for serious situations that has truly made my dad a special person. Beyond wearing a tie that resembled a fish to our family member’s wedding, my dad also one time stole a wheelchair at the Southwest terminal at LAX. It was only after attempting to reach maximum speed and perform a “wheelie” maneuver, was my dad apprehended by the crack team of individuals we trust to protect our country.
However, my dad did teach many valuable lessons, and as it comes with many things in childhood, it more often than not occurred with sports. If there’s anything you know about Bruce Graham and youth sports, know this: he was a relentless coach. Be it baseball, soccer, or basketball, when it comes to sports, my dad is up in the pantheon of Bobby Knight, Woody Hayes, and Vince Lombardi. Be it his extensive knowledge of the way around most common rules in sport, or securing both the number 1 AND 2 picks in the Knapp Ranch Minor’s division draft, he was a force to be reckoned with. He taught a generation of kids lessons like respecting those in charge and to never give up. I remember in 6th grade, my baseball team, the Cleveland Indians (of course), lost in the opening round of the playoffs to our hated rivals, the San Francisco Giants. Thanks to a double elimination bracket, my dad was able to manage our team into a World Series (I don’t understand the title, given it was a single game) rematch. The outcome of that game? A 14-6 blowout. (side note: I also got charged at the plate from a runner on third while playing catcher and knocked the kid to the ground. To date, the coolest thing to have ever happened to me in sports) That plaque still hangs on my wall today. But it wasn’t simply the games that my dad was most valuable, it was meeting at the batting cages together just so I could work on my swing and not strike out as much. The year before, I was notorious for striking out and crying, not my best moments, but I was able to rebound the next year and lead the league in doubles and stolen bases. I remember going into 8th grade, my dad asked me if I was going to keep playing baseball. I decided to pursue running instead. My dad was visibly upset and I felt terrible. I still remember the car ride to my basketball game that evening being very silent. However, my dad proved me wrong by showing up to most of my meets with my mom and cheering loudly for me. Their voices as I ran down the backstretch made that last lap seem infinitely easier for me, every time.
Beyond sports, me and my dad had Indian Guides. Indian Guides was a group run through the YMCA where you and the rest of your predominately white, suburban friends get together with your dads once a month and pretend to be Native Americans by doing some sort of leather craft and referring to each other by a made up name. The rule as I understood it, was that your name had to involve either “eagle” or “feather” in the title. Naturally, my dad took the name “Eagle Feather.” I told you he was clever. Indian Guides involved trips up to the mountains and to campsites as a group. It was on these trips where I learned how to walk sideways on a hill in snow and other important survival tips that have proven useless in Southern California. What I remember most about those trips weren’t the rock fights with opposing tribes (stupid Yellowknifes) or stomping on frozen puddles, but I remember spending time with my dad and just enjoying his company, something that as I have gotten older has grown harder and harder to do.
Since going off to college, it’s been harder and harder to get time with my dad. When I am home, he spends much of his time at the office to ensure that I can get a quality education without being forced to go into loads of debt, which trust me, I am thankful for. When I’m at school, I’ve noticed that a lot of him has rubbed off on me. Certain situations where perhaps I should be a bit more serious have very Bruce-esque moments of silliness. Or that when bored, I find myself watching documentaries or wanting to learn something new. (Something that I credit both my parents for. We were the royal family of watching Ken Burns growing up)
This past winter, my dad had a surgery performed on his heart. While he is fine now, my family was faced with the very real idea that ol’ poppa bear wasn’t going to be there forever. While it was a scary moment for all involved, I do believe that it brought us closer together. I don’t know what I would have done, but I am thankful to the universe every day for the doctors and others involved that helped save my dad.
I’ve always been amazed by the term “father-figure,” and what that means to some people. I know to me that I don’t have a “father-figure,” I have a dad. I know many people may not consider him in the same light I do, but to me, he’s the greatest one who has ever lived.
My dad doesn’t hear it enough, but his kids love him, and are thankful for everything he has done. He may not be Warren Buffett or Neil Armstrong, but what my dad has accomplished in his life for his family and those that have met him has made him the richest man on earth, as far as I’m concerned.
So in the words of my dad, who is often quiet, and very reserved when it comes to compliments, “Pretty good, Dad. Pretty Good.”