How do you Say Goodbye to Dad

How do you say goodbye to Dad? It is not easy to summarize your relationship with a parent on a website in 2-3 paragraphs, but I’ll give it a shot here.

The Backstory

I was a Cub Scout in 1977. My Mom was our excellent Den Mother, but when the time came for the Pinewood Derby, this was Dad and Jeff turf! Dad and I always had a passion for woodworking, for building, and making things. So, I was handed the kit to make my car, as a nine-year-old, and told to “go make a car, but wait to put the wheels on because I have something…”, my Dad said.

The Action

Ok – now that was cool – free license to all the tools in the basement! I retreated to the basement, pencil in hand, located the coping saw, the cross-cut saw, the block plane, wood files, chisels, and went to work. Hours (or days?) later I emerged with my “coping saw car” and showed Dad. He said “Needs more sanding!” — he always said this -:) as any parent should about their kid’s impatience with sanding — and added “, but it looks good”. “Are you going to paint it?”, he asked. I sanded it some more and grabbed a couple of used paint cans from the shelves and painted my car red and blue with a #1 sticker on the sides and hood (of course!).

When I was done with the painting, Dad came down. He was very excited while we very carefully attached the wheels to make sure they were straight. He made me pound in the nails using the tack hammer. When complete, we agreed it looked pretty good. Then he pulled out a tube of something. I asked “Is that oil to lubricate the wheels? Is oil the secret to win? ” He said “No, oil will gum up the axles. This is powdered graphite! I researched this and it is the secret weapon that no one else will know about.” I can remember “secret weapon” there in the basement next to the workbench my grandpa built (OMG!); my dad so excited, and myself thinking my Dad found a secret weapon!

Off to the Races

Long story short, my kinda ugly “coping saw car” came home with first place at the Pack 21 derby. We came home and proclaimed victory. Everyone was excited. We were invited to the Middlesex County championships in Middletown, CT. The competition was fierce. Other Dad’s had found out about graphite powder! It was down to the last round of racing and we were still in the competition. Dad and I huddled and gave some extra graphite to the wheels.

The pressure was on! We were not confident, but both of us were so excited to have a chance to win. I placed the car at the top of the track, the other cars looked like F1 designs, so I had little hope with my “coping saw car”. I ran back to watch with Dad. Down the track the car went…it was skittering in the tracks, it hit the flats at the bottom, and slowly Dad’s secret weapon kicked in and…. we won! First place! We couldn’t believe it. My Mom couldn’t believe it when we got home, but we had the trophy. I still have the trophies long after most of my soccer trophies are long gone.

Value Every Moment

Coping Saw Car

This story embodies so much of what my Dad and I shared. A love of making, his trust in me to not chop off a finger, our shared passion for doing/winning/playing, desire to work hard, a love of new ideas/technology, and a shared belief that trying to win is better than not trying at all. I admit this story also embodies my dad’s idea that a long story is better than a short one 🙂

I would like to say I valued every moment with my Dad, but in all honesty, I didn’t. Like many I really never thought about death or that something bad could happen.

So I say “Dad, you fought hard against a bitter enemy in Amyloidosis. You fought to the bitter end. You showed us how do to it right.”

Love you Dad – I will miss your advice, your questions back to me when I wanted advice, your stories, and most of all your friendship. I sincerely hope that I measure up as a husband, father, and citizen.

I cannot really answer the question I posed at the outset of this post. I can only say I will not say goodbye, but I will continue to remember my dad and yeah I will talk out loud to him when I feel like it. I’ll miss him every day.

10 Responses

  1. Alicia Bosse says:

    Great post, Jeff. I totally agree – dad showed us how to do it right in so many ways. I’m pretty confident that his example goes beyond us to our kids and hopefully to their kids. So in a way we never have to say goodbye.

  2. Stevie B says:

    Over the last few years I’ve watched you send team members away with some raw ideas and tell them to put something together. I’ve seen them bring it back to you and get constructive feedback on how to smooth the edges, squish the bugs and tidy up the code. And I’ve seen you bring the secret sauce -the bit of grease that makes a project go faster and beat the competition. I’d say you are truly your father’s son 🙂

  3. Karan says:

    I loved this. It was a beautiful tribute that captured my heart, soul and imagination. You are a great reflection of your Dad. ❤❤

  4. Marianne Grant says:

    That just brings me back, so perfectly captures that story — and your poor car WON! – I remember the ‘secret weapon”. And then this story brings back dozens of stories, just the same intensity from Dad and getting it right — remember rope making?, pasta pressing?, Ms. Gerber coming to see the only Apple 2e in town to make a school investment when we already knew basic programming?….thanks for the great post.

  5. The pasta machine! I forgot that! The yougurt machine too! How about when we made like 500 english muffins!

  6. Ethan S says:

    A great reminder to all dads about how all of these “small moments” are really “big moments” This is what fatherhood is all about. Hang in there…

    • Totally agree. The best moments with my Dad were always the unexpected ones. A random hike that turned out extra special. A day at the beach with an extra cool sand castle, etc. Big days are fairly predictable – high school or college graduations, etc. The small and unexpected moments are the best.

  7. Beren says:

    Two years later – still not easy.

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