meet pete part two

imageMy father wrote a lot.

He wrote for business, self, and quite beautifully for others.I have all of his writing and slowly, very slowly, I am making my way through his universes.

A repeating theme in my dad’s writing is the power in the family and of the family. His musings tended to project out from his inner Stephen King, but the light side was there too. In particular, his awe of my mother’s skills of connection, her superpower of social networking, that brought interesting people into his life, held great importance to him. He offered to me that it was through her that his circles widened. I countered, that it was in these persons of interest he mined some of his best character work and story plots. He smiled at that, nodded, and added wryly, ‘Ya probably.’

Though he never made much a show of it, he easily sidled up to conversations and connections.  I often marveled at his talents at the 1:1 level. He, in a large space, could find the single most important person to talk to… it could have been one of you here tonight. I am sure of it. And many of you have shared with me that he made you feel centered, valued, and respected. This was intentional, if he sat with you and spoke with you, you became an important part of his life. This was genuineness, this was generosity, this was humility, all of this is what made my Dad pretty awesome.

Personally, my memories of this talent fall somewhere between mind control and hypnotism. My adolescent threats of running away became diffuse in discussions with him. No longer on fire about some irrational teen moment, I would find myself being walked out my headspace or followed at safe distance, and ultimately he waited me out. He knew how to connect with me. Which let me connect with myself.

There were a few times when his quiet stillness, listening to me rant and rage, or ramble incoherently after a party, ‘that’s someone else’s barf on my shoes, calmed me to a point that could almost be described as rational. In the least, he stalled long enough to cause me to either forget the irrational act I had declared I would do or to admit that maybe I had one drink too many.

There is a whole lot of stuff that falls out of a time like this. The term ‘shaken’ comes to mind and in some ways paints the perfect picture of how I feel right now. Maybe it is the same for some of you as well. The nervous energy that wriggles out of shared experiences can become overwhelming. Tracking new bits of information about my dad is both thrilling and astonishing; even now I am learning about his connections in the world and witnessing the power vibrancy that still courses through them. The movement and variation of pieces in my Dad’s life suspended in air, turning, floating, and shimmering is quite mesmerizing. Grabbing just one memory from the air stirs several in its place.

It is difficult for me to read through his body of work. I have regrets that I was not more a part of his writing life. This past week, in too many cases, I found myself reading his writing for the first time. I don’t believe for a second that this was his intention. It was me. I had other things on my mind. I was in other places.

My Dad told stories often, stories were always a way for my father to connect with me. I am a storyteller because of my Dad. And because he did it so well and I followed.

meet pete part one

imageThe Saturday morning after my father passed, Karen and I gathered our courage and our children into our family room and prepared ourselves to explain to Maddie and Jake what had happened with my dad.

We thought it best to share the story with them as soon as possible. The kids were already playing and waiting for breakfast when Karen and I decided to talk with them.Both of them I know, in small ways, had observed and checked our comings and goings throughout the week with mild curiosity and a bit of concern. All the while much of the true knowledge of our reality was buffered by cartoons and video games, and hanging with their grandparents.

We had shared bits of my dad’s health story, without much gravity, to this point- and often Maddie would ask ‘when is Poppa Pete coming home?’ The hope in her question always lifted me and crushed me at the same time.

I began slowly, and simply relating the events of the previous night. And as expected my tears welled up, Karens were falling down her face, Maddie’s sobs broke my heart into even smaller pieces, and Jake held my knee with such force that I thought for sure there would be bruising. Tissues, hugs, more tissues and then eye contact with Karen happened and we have this moment like ‘okay keep going you can do it’… so I did.

Returning to Maddie I check in ‘what are you thinking?’ Maddie is staring and nodding like she is doing a checklist in her head ‘that I’m sad’ she says. Heart crushed, I breathe in – is this even possible I thought? More tears, deeper hugs, and several tissues later. I check in with my son.

‘Jake…what are you thinking’ ‘…’ he holds my gaze but no words come. ‘Are you sad?’ he nods. Maddie’s sniffling draws his attention for a moment. He looks back at me with those amazing deep blue eyes…rimmed with tears. I say ‘it’s okay buddy, you can tell me what you’re thinking..’ ‘if you’re sad it’s good to talk’ Maddie adds. A smile moves across Jake’s face. ‘Can we have waffles now?’

I laughed and in that moment I heard my dad. Jake’s honest question was so in the moment, so perfectly timed that it wrapped up our heavy conversation with the childlike glee that only comes from having waffles. And as my son pumped his fist in the air at the thought of breakfast… I swear I hear my dad saying…‘I’m okay, you’ll be okay too.’