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Pondering the importance of Pops

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POSTED January 28, 2009 1:13 a.m.
I fished with my Dad Saturday, even though we were separated by two states and a foreign country. The experience was exactly the second time it was cool to have a cell phone while fishing. The first was a few years back when our engine died, and we were drifting helplessly toward those hard rock things that tend to hurt boat hulls.

As I kicked rocks down the path toward the river shore, my chest vibrated. It was Mom, telling me my Dad had just called her from Tranquil Point, an ironic moniker some days, but great fishing grounds. They had just landed a King salmon and thrown it back – first one of the year always goes back. Mom relayed the message.

So I called my Dad, and if I closed my eyes and swayed sided to side, I could have been there with him.

A week ago he was in the hospital, then Friday, a close friends’ dad died suddenly. It had been a tough week and a half, and the moment gaffed me.

I decided it was Father’s Day. Why wait a couple months to chat with the man who held my hands as I fired that first shot on his .357-calber pistol, and showed me how to feed the rope through the wench that brought the crab pots from the mean, cold, grey water? He let me throw away the females, and the ones that were too small. He even let me drive the boat a bit, when we entered the no wake zone near the dock. Dad made me important.

He took me under the house when the pipes froze in winter, and I laid there on the frozen ground flanked by decayed tree stumps and insulation as he fixed sections that burst. I never really did anything, but I was down there.

He videotaped my elementary basketball games, when the girls on my team were taller than I was, and the baseball games when I threw so many of those nice strikes that ended up in the ocean that was deep left field, or in the xiphoid process of batters when it was rainy and I couldn’t feel my fingers. Every strike out, every ERA bruiser, Pops was there. He posted up in the corner of the gym and watched all of my basketball games and smiled as I played minutes after the coaches wife tied a gash in my head shut with my own hair since no one could give me stitches.

The only high school class I was ever tossed from was his music class. He had laryngitis. A kid sat on a timpani. Dad yelled. I laughed.

I walked out of the classroom and stood befuddled until my best friend Lars exited the class.

“You’re dad’s going nuts man, he’s sending everyone out; it’s awesome!”

Lars was more excited than I. I had just been booted from class, my dad’s class, how dumb was I? It’s even funnier now, because I’m not in the principal’s office.

There were other Dads that took a vested interest in me. Dads that watched close as I played with my best friends, and reminded me of the principles of character, despite being an awkward, hyperactive teenager. They were Dads that didn’t replace, but filled in during different contexts; Dads that looked out for me enough to tell me when I was being an idiot.

In the last week, life has reminded me that “Dad” is not merely a noun, because for some a father is nothing more than a chromosome contribution, and others can now only speak to theirs in prayer.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.
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