Dear E & V,
A wise man once told me, “Before they turned 18 I was a father to my kids. After they turned 18 I became their friend.” Ever since I heard that quote it’s been a guiding principle in my parenting. And it became more poignant ever since your Grandpa died.
I’m at a moment in my life where I desperately wish I had your Grandpa here to be my friend. It’ll all be history by the time you’re old enough to read this, but I’m struggling to balance my financial duties to you and your mother with my desire to break free of the computer screen and create a meaningful life. I was fortunate to be let go from a job in which I couldn’t thrive, but the reflection on what I want out of life has caused a significant amount of cognitive dissonance: My heart yearns to be outdoors almost as much as it seeks to facilitate your growth into kind, anti-fragile, and thoughtful human beings; but I made a promise to your mother that I would support you guys financially so she could stay home until you’re in school. As much as I’d love to spend my time teaching wilderness first aid or firefighting for a suburban county it just doesn’t pay enough to allow me to fulfill my promise to your mom.
I’ve been through various compromises in my mind and know your Grandpa would tell me what I need to know to break through my obstacles. I often hope that I can wish him into my dreams so I can ask him all the questions with no easy answers. At what point do I put aside my dreams so I can put food on the table? Are the means to financial independence worth it if it’s not something I’m excited about? How do I stay motivated to achieve my “why” when it seems like it’ll take me decades to get there? How do I balance spending time with my kids now with achieving the financial goals that I have — especially if, like him, I die before I expect to?
I’ve never really been one to believe in an afterlife, and I often hope without reason that Grandpa’s wisdom will somehow seep into my life and give me the answers I seek. I hold his dog tag in my hand hoping I can capture some of his friendship to guide me through this rough spot. I look at old pictures and read his old emails asking “What now, Dad?”
I know ultimately it’s up to me to take the steps I need to fix my mindset and figure out my next steps in life. I know there are no easy answers and that sometimes the journey is the answer. I know I have a lot to be grateful for — a caring family, a hobby where I can give back to the community, and enough savings to weather me through this storm.
But that doesn’t stop me from feeling that he’s out there somewhere waiting to guide me with his eternal friendship, that someday I can stop asking “What now, Dad?”
I am a Father, Husband, Cowboy Philosopher, Volunteer Firefighter, and Professional Dilettante. I am nothing and I am everything. But when it comes to our relationship: I only wish you wonder and happiness.