Letter to my dad
I was trying to figure out whether when you lose someone is it better to have it happen all of a sudden, like this or if it happens over time. But I do not think that question needs to be answered. In the end I have lost someone that meant so much and there is no changing that. Someone that I cared about deeply, someone that had a hard time showing his feelings, but I know loved me more than anything. I would like to share some of the memories I have about my dad that indicate the type of father he was and what he meant to me, my brothers and sister, and everyone here.
My relationship with my dad was turbulent at times and I think that a lot of you here today can relate with that statement. From very early on I learned that hard work is what it takes to make something of yourself. Nothing would come free or easy, but if you work at it, you could make it. If you were going to do something, you were in it to win it, or as he put it, kick ass and take names. I was in second grade, my first major wrestling tournament, the Ashland JAWS tournament. We were there to win and if CJ and I took first place, we got to go see Genesis in Cleveland. It was the I Can’t Dance tour, it was a big deal. We did not know at the time, but he had already got the tickets, so we were going regardless, but it did sweeten the victory when I beat my longtime rival and future friend, Chad Wright. It wasn’t always easy though, if you lost, it was the worst and you better not cry.
October 29th was the 20th anniversary of an event that changed my life forever, getting hit by a car. Carina and I were talking and I was trying to recount the events that happened after the accident. I called up my mom and dad to ask how it was for them as parents. This type of information holds new meaning now that I am a father. My mom told me that the EMT’s, the nurses, and doctors at in the ER would not let her see me because of how bad I was. I remember, lying on the table, staring into lights, when all of a sudden my dad, in his black and gold Cutter Oil coat and hat was standing above me. Although he had been warned that he was not allowed to see me pushed the nurses aside because he was stubborn but more than anything, it showed how much he cared; no one was going to keep him from seeing his son. I do not remember the exact words, but I do remember him, standing there strong, making sure I did not see a trace of fear on his face that he no doubt was feeling. Twenty years later, learning this new information I feel good about who my dad was.
I spent a long time in the hospital and back then, there weren’t telephones in each room. My dad made sure I had his cell phone, the type you had to carry in a bag and I could use it when if I needed something. I also spent a lot of time riding in the truck with my dad as he checked wells because he took me to all of my doctors’ appointments. Initially, I was in a wheelchair but I moved up to crutches. And when I was in good enough shape, you are looking at someone that can hop tanks on one foot. I hate 210’s. The worst thing was when you somehow forgot the number between the tank and the truck. He was annoyed to say the least because he would not forget that type of thing. I had at least two surgeries a year after that and countless doctor appointments, my dad took me to most of them. My accident forever changed my life, physical work just would not be in the cards for me, although I was farm manager for a number of years. He told me, use your head; that is your gift. You don’t have to work like I had to and that is what I am doing now.
During my teenage years my dad and I did not get along. Many teenagers go through that but for me, things were especially bad because I was definitely rebelling against authority. I got into trouble, had more than a few parties at the house, but I could never escape the chores on the farm. Hey, I learned from my dad that you can go out in party but you better be there for work. An example of when this little fact of life played out in my favor was senior skip day. The night before, we partied most of the night back at Pee Wee Hollow. But since dad knew I was off school and skipping, I had to work. The following Monday, Dr. Frame, our principal was calling all of those that skipped to the office trying to bust me. He thought he had me dead to rights. Let’s just say I had a target on my back because I rebelled against Frame too. He said he had a witness that saw me out on that Friday at Sterling Farm Equipment. But I had the perfect alibi – I was working for my dad. Do you really think I would skip school and hang out looking at farm machinery? Shawn 1, Dr, Frame 0 all because I had to work that day.
My dad and I were at odds through most of college. Then at some point, things changed. I cannot put my finger on it, but I think there was a lot of growing up on my part and some acceptance on dad’s part. I was going to be a little different, but he had raised me right and I was turning out OK, and probably would not screw things up too bad. I also had to accept that my dad was not going to be perfect or what I thought a dad has to be all of the time. He was my dad and like it or not, I was lucky to have a dad like him because I had a head start on most people out there. At some point, I actually began talking to him more than I talked to my mom and at times, I would get off the phone and could not believe I had talked to him about whatever it was. We just talked to BS. I cannot say it was always great from that point on, we argued, but we definitely had a relationship that I think the both of us were happy to have. He supported me and gave me a lot of good advice when I started my business. He was the first one to go up in the plane with me when I got my pilot’s license, which my Mom and wife still have even not done. I will always look back on the times we have spent together over the past several years when it was not always about work, especially the family vacations. These times taught me that there is only so much stuff you can have and I think that my brother Josh said it best when he said that he did not want any more presents, he just wanted family vacations. I wish we could have had a few more of them.
A month and a half ago, we went down to the condo on a Saturday. I was to ride the jet ski when we got there, then get back in time for dinner. The following day we were picking up mom and dad at the airport so we could spend some time together. The jet ski broke down where no boats go and after a two hour ordeal of pulling the jet ski by hand through neck deep water. When I got in the first call I made was to my dad because I know he would get a kick out of it, but I also learned that if you want sympathy, you call mom. He asked about the jet ski, what was wrong with it, why it would not turn over, what I thought was wrong with it, and why the hell didn’t I take my cell phone. We kept kidding him about he and his response was, ‘Well, you were calling me so I knew you were ok.’ I know that if I had gotten stuck out there and Carina had to make the call, he would have had more boats going in the water than you could count looking for me. When you needed him he was there.
We never got to say goodbye and share all these feelings I have right now. I really hope he knew how much he meant to me and the rest of us. I do not think he knew the full extent of how much we all need him still. It is going to be tough to pick up and move on, but I know we will make it through, we are Cutters damn it. He left my life too soon and it hurts like hell, but he got us to this point. All you have to do is look at us kids to know how successful he was as a father. The shitty thing now is that if we screw up, we won’t hear it from him. I would take an ass chewing right now.
He taught us a lot. But the most important thing he saved for last. I cannot quote him on this one because he never had the chance to say it but I am feeling it now, so I guess I have to paraphrase. You have to work hard, play hard, and find time to spend it with family. Even though you may not always get along, you have to make it work, find the time, save some work for tomorrow. Because if tomorrow never comes, the work, fuck it, all you have is today. Make me proud.
Your son, shawn