A Suburban Dad's Guest Blog: The Reason I Write

By Rick Kaempfer

Father's Day is coming up this weekend, and Father's Day has always been a bittersweet day for me. I enjoy the couple of minutes in the morning that the boys are nice to me, saying their coached words about appreciating me. Those are nice moments.
But Father's Day also reminds me of my own father. You see, Father's Day weekend was his birthday too, which doubles the memories. And it was also around the time we lost him in the summer of 1989, which triples them.  
Dad's death had a profound influence on me. It was probably the most important moment of my life. It was the moment that turned me into a writer.
Let me see if I can explain.
When Dad died I was 25 years old, and I had never given a second of thought to my own mortality. Not one second.
Dad never did either.
I know this is going to sound bad, but moments after his death I started to wish that he had. I realize it's totally unfair to say that about a man who walked into a hospital emergency room  at the age of 54, and never came out again. His mindset was understandable. Both of his parents were still alive when he died. He had no reason to ever think about death. Why would he bother thinking about what life would be like without him?
I know I'm being greedy here. I realize that. He gave me all he could give...and then some.  But as soon as it hit me that he was gone, I found myself wanting something from him that I never wanted before. 
His advice.
I always considered Dad to be a source of wisdom, even when I strongly fought against it. He was a reasonable man, a thinker, someone who gave quite a bit of thought to his words before they came out. He wasn't always right, but he was never rash or emotional. In short, he was the perfect kind of person to ask for advice.
And I never did.
And now that I'm a father myself, I have a million questions. 
That's probably one of the reasons I have so overcompensated with my own boys. I've tried to use my father as a model--his steady temperament and his guiding hand, while trying to give them what he couldn't give me. It's one of the reasons I've decided to stay home and raise them. I'm part of virtually every phase of their lives, and I'm constantly giving them unsolicited advice about every subject under the sun just in case they ever need it someday. 
Unfortunately, I don't quite have the fountain of wisdom my father had. He had knowledge that came from a difficult childhood of emigration and language barriers and hardship that I couldn't even imagine. You learn things when you experience difficulty--and he must have learned so much. Most of those lessons learned, however, died with him. I didn't have the foresight to ask about them, and he didn't have the foresight to commit them to paper.
So I write.
That way, what I know will not go away when I go away. Even if my boys choose to ignore it for most of their lives, I'm fairly confident there will come a time when curiosity will get the best of them, and they will seek out wisdom from their father. When that time comes, there's a possibility I won't be around to deliver it in person. 
The son spends his life trying to distance himself from his father, trying to make his own way in the world, trying to become a man. There's nothing wrong with that--it's part of growing up. I certainly don't take it personally when my boys ignore my advice and insist on making the same mistakes I made. Some kids just learn better that way. I know I did. But there will come a day when they need me.  And I just can't bear to think that I won't be there when they do.
So I write.
When they do seek me out, even if I'm not around, my words will still be here, to bring me back to life. They won't have to wonder what was going through my mind when I was in their shoes--because they can read it.  And if they end up having boys just like themselves--and my experience tells me they just might--they can see how and why I did what I did.
Why do I write? I know that part of the audience for every word I write includes three grown men I've never met. Three men who may one day want to ask Dad for advice. I only have my time, my love, and my words. I give those with all of my heart. 
That's why I write.

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