Category Archives: Dad

What He Said

Sometimes you find insight in the most unexpected places.

The following is an editor’s letter from the front of Men’s Fitness magazine. It eloquently and efficiently mirrors the feeling of my own feelings towards my father.

Editor’s Letter in June 2012 edition of Men’s Fitness by Michael De Medeiros:

Growing up, I never really had a hero not at the time, anyway. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate larger-than-life characters. With examples all around us back then, how could I not? From Spider-Man to Rocky Balboa to Ric Flair to James Bond, I was frequently captivated by awe-inspiring feats and accomplishments. Add superstar athletes to that mix and it’s hard to fathom that everyone born in the late ’70s didn’t end up auditioning to be an action hero or star quarter-back. We were junkies of the surreal because that was our reality. And there’s no denying that watching these sports and entertainment icons helped shape me, on some level, into the man I’ve become. Still, if you’d asked me then if I had a hero, my answer would have been a resounding no.
It makes sense though: When you’re young, you don’t fully realize everything around you. You don’t see what’s really happening and how you’re changing and evolving.
Fast-forward a few years into adulthood, and everything changed abruptly when my father was diagnosed with cancer. Looking back, it’s obvious I went through some rather massive changes during that period of my life. This wasn’t because my father, on his deathbed, pulled me aside to impart something he hadn’t illuminated previously. It also wasn’t because life had dealt me a hard blow and I’d simply rounded a corner into responsibility. No, it was because I was watching the strongest man I’d ever known deal with the hardest thing in life-mortality. In witnessing that, I realized who my father really was and what he meant to me. He wasn’t my buddy, nor was he my teacher. He was, rather, the example of everything good, respectable, and admirable that I could ever aspire to be. He didn’t tell me: “Son, here’s how to be a man.” He lived it. He showed me everything I needed and I was soaking it all in-unaware that I was even doing it as I was growing up. When it came time for me to be an adult and take on something as devastating as losing him, I was prepared because he had shown me how strong I could be by virtue of how strong he was. I owe a lot to my father, and I will live my life trying to live up to his legacy.

Bud Martin: A Celebration of Life

This is the video that I made and that was shown at my father’s memorial service / celebration of life service on January 7, 2012.
A link to the YouTube original is here.

Dancing Like Dingledodies

One of my favorite quotes is from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I have revisited it many times in my life after particularly meaningful experiences. (For example, I pasted it in the front cover of the photo album that I made after my semester abroad in college.) I have also re-read it at times that I felt my life was becoming a bit too bourgeois. In the time since my father’s death, I find myself returning to it again. My father was such a man…

But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Fatherly Advice

Email to my father:

In the background: a PBS special on the Beats…in my mind: questions about my life…

How long will I live before making a connection? How did the Beat writers meet each other? Is their comraderie real or as artists do they romanticize an ordinary life? Can I romanticize my life? Is there any material to write about? Or am I lost in a helpless bourgeouis cycle? The lost generation: how did they get together? How do people of like minds meet? Do such relationships exist past youth? These old farts on PBS who sit around discussing their twenties and thirties… Was that their entire life? Even that though is enviable…But why did these anti-establishment types do all of these interviews with these old fuckers, these people who are so non-BEAT — how disgusting to see Steve Allen kabbitzing with Kerouac…They are compartmentalized as well as I am…even the heroes…

There is a reason why they are on TV now and I am in my underwear on the couch — two insights from that thought: the truth of most people leading lives of quiet desperation and that to seek a pinnacle is fine, but it should be recognized as a pinnacle and not a pickle, i.e., the ordinary; and two: you don’t reach a pinnacle by sitting on your couch in your underwear watching TV.

So much bores me, and so much excites me! Serendipity, serendipity, serendipity…I suppose I contradict you by seeking you…

To find an environment where I can be as strange as I really am would be bliss…

And his response:

Sounds as tho’ you’re wrestling with the paradox inherent in having a “balanced” life. In my opinion it is far easier to achieve ANY given end state if you are single minded – and if you are comfortable living primarily in the present.

For example, I don’t think the “lost generation” cared at all about their future state – so they could concentrate on the “today”. Most of these folk were NOT Hemingways, but faceless and forgotten habitués of Parisian sidewalk cafes. I lived for a time among many of these type folk whilst single in Mt. Adams. We hung out in the different bars until the wee small hours and philosophized about life in general, and getting laid in particular. They were colorful and fun to be around, but were pretty much wastrels. They were living hand-to-mouth, operating as non-union painters or on service disabilities to feed their minimal pecuniary needs. While they were sleeping late and heading to Dilly’s for morning Bloody Marys I was facing the other side of my existence by getting up and walking down the hill with my P&G face on. (Interestingly, McCord sent me an invitation to a Dilly’s reunion to be held this summer – many of the most memorable characters from this period in my life will be remembered “in Memoriam”.)

If you really cared about finding these folk, I’m sure you could – not just the “plastic hippies” of my youth, but also the current avant garde thinkers that represent today’s “beats”. However, finding and joining these folk must be the lodestone in your life – I’m reasonably sure it is in theirs.

I also think you might find many of them to be somewhat shallow (kind of goes with being single-minded.) They tend (or in my experience, tended) to be in active rebellion against the “establishment”. They stated this to be because they rejected the mores of same, but I feel that at least some part of this was sour grapes – they didn’t have the skills or perseverance to achieve in the establishment world. They couldn’t/wouldn’t: stick with an academic program to achieve professional degrees, put in long hours at work, travel to strange places when inconvenient, sacrifice themselves to do what is best for family, think about retirement, want to drive a BMW, care about their appearance of success, get satisfaction from strategic thinking, set and achieve “stretch goals”, make $100K before 30 (or ever!), etc., etc., etc.

You’ve mentioned several possibilities that to me ring true, and some that ring less true. They have romanticized their life – if they didn’t we wouldn’t find it interesting. And romance does seem to have most attraction to youth – and to us old farts reflecting back on, and romanticizing our youth.

However, from my perspective the people who lead lives of quiet desperation are those who are non-action oriented – those who think life happens to them rather than those who make things happen in their life. Also, successful lives tend not to have “a” pinnacle, but rather a series of “ups” which are more numerous than the “downs”. And lastly, sitting around on the couch in your underwear is a perfectly acceptable event – as long as it is not a primary behavioral mode. Look how introspective you became whilst doing so! It’s only “quiet desperation” if you don’t get off the couch, garb yourself and go do something!

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