Thursday, June 13, 2013


It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson. This week's theme is Dad. Here's one of my favorite pictures of my Dad:

Two years ago I wrote the following post about Dad. I don't think I could say it today any better than I said it then. He still rocks!

My father's birthday came and went, and the post I had written in my mind never made it to the screen. My message is brief, and I lift it from the Gymboree t-shirt John wore last Father's Day:

My Dad Rocks!

My Dad rocks in a thousand ways -- some significant, some trivial.

Years ago, when my sister was considering an important decision, Dad offered some blunt advice.

"When you have kids," he shared, "your dreams die."

On the face of it, you would think those words stemmed from a life of disappointment and bitterness, from a person disillusioned and disenchanted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When my parents first married, Dad owned his own business. It was a T.V. and radio shop. Dad is a mechanical wizard and has a passion for all things electronic. I'm sure he loved setting his own hours and being his own boss.

When children began arriving in regular succession, Dad closed his business and ultimately invested decades in a career with the Bell System. He was not his own boss and did not set his own hours. It was no dream job, I'm sure, but he was able to support us nicely, to pay tuition at Catholic schools,  to provide health insurance.

In short, he let a dream die.

In truth, though, Dad is a man of many, many dreams. The T.V. shop closed, but he went on to pursue a hundred other joys -- fishing and ham radios, model airplanes and chess. He loved the water and always dreamed of living on a lake.

He had a passion for boats. We always had boats. Yes, that's plural. Dad's record was owning four boats at one time. Dad would typically buy a clunker held together by a thin veneer of varnish and spend years refurbishing it. When I was a baby, he ordered a sailboat kit and built an entire boat in our basement. He then ripped out half the kitchen to get it out of the house. True story. The entire neighborhood and the local media turned out for the occasion. 

We often joked that my father had nine lives. He was forever slicing this or breaking that while sailing or carving or chiseling.

Around the office Dad was known as "Rapid Regan";  in our family he was "Gotta Go." He attended school years before anyone had heard of ADHD. Had he been born fifty years later, no doubt he would have had a lengthy string of letters after his name. I am sure he was a challenge in the classroom and at home. My boys love to hear the story of their Great Grandmother sending Grandpa to his room and then finding him inexplicably flying a kite out his bedroom window. No doubt there is a bevy of nuns who bypassed Purgatory entirely for having attempted to divert one Keith Regan from his chess manuals and radio magazines and in the direction of grammar and algebra.

Dad is something of a character. One of his most endearing qualities is his ability to laugh at his own foibles. We laugh right along with him. Last week I sat engrossed in a game of Scrabble and listened to my sister attempt to teach Dad how to check his email. Her tone alternated between patient and patronizing as he interjected "What the hell's that for?' and "Ah, forget it! Just forget it!"

After about sixty seconds of this,  my shoulders were shaking and tears coursed down my face I was laughing so hard.

Why? Because I've hear this identical exchange every! time! I! visit! I mean, every time. Don't you know these software engineers have formed a vast conspiracy to frustrate Keith Regan and Keith Regan alone?

Dad is still best friends with Lerew, a childhood pal. I will never forget the weekend they spent driving around trying to scam free Wi-Fi access. They finally succeeded by creeping in great stealth up the driveway of an exclusive club. They came home thrilled with their success and chuckling over their antics, two men in their seventies with multiple open heart surgeries between them. I wondered if they had thrown TP through the trees and scammed a beer or two.

I remember having coffee with my sister on my parents' deck as Dad fished offshore. We looked up to see Dad gesturing wildly, arms flailing madly. Kate and I immediately burst out laughing. No need to hear the dialogue. Make no mistake about it -- someone had just lost a Walleye.

Walleye fishing is a part of everyday life because Dad is living out his dream of living on the water. My parents live on an island in Lake Erie.

To me, that is a key part of their story. There is a time to do the right thing, to let a dream die. But, in Dad's case, he was really embracing another dream. He took hold of that new dream and didn't get mired in self-pity. He didn't count the cost over and over again. He found a life of purpose, of commitment, of excitement, of unexpected joy. In the end many of his dreams did come to pass.

That's a lesson I hope I have learned from my father.

Now in their 52nd year of marriage,  my parents are now, without question, walking through the "for worse " part of their wedding vows. My mother lives with chronic pain and rapidly diminishing mobility. Obviously, my dad lives with this as well. Pressing medical needs make life on an island in Lake Erie a tad problematic.

On a recent visit, Dad casually mentioned, "We need to think about selling the house."

The house. The house he built. The house on the lake.

Dad shared this with all the gravity of discussing new tires or having a tree removed. We need to think about selling the house.

Why? Because he is a courageous man, a man willing to let one dream die so that a more important one might live, a man who knows he will not succumb to bitterness and self-pity if things -- even really important things -- don't go his way.

I pray that he doesn't have to sell the house, but the fact that he can utter those words, can face that possibility, simply reinforces my longstanding view:

My Dad Rocks!


Alishia said...

Your dad does rock. Thanks for sharing this.

Tina said...


christinelaennec said...

What a wonderful post, Kelly. I laughed out loud about the kite! You are very blessed to have such a great relationship with a father who clearly understands what unconditional love means. My own mother is planning to sell the house she has loved for more than 40 years and I can see she really is ready to move on to the next chapter. Sometimes it's us children who need to realise that our parents can move on to new dreams. Thank you for reminding me of this.

Patti Doughty said...

What an awesome tribute to your dad, Kel. Thanks for writing it. Your father is, indeed, a very special man; you're the evidence of that.

clariseb said...

Kelly, this was a wonderful post. A great tribute. Made me think about my own dad. thank you.

Cari Donaldson said...

Wow. What a story.
I think that your dad, without realizing it, means "When you become a parent, your dreams are sacrificed". Death is meaningless. A sacrifice is giving up something good for something better. What you describe your dad doing with his dreams is clearly the latter.

Christine said...

Great post for your dad. I hope he gets to read this.

Maia said...

This is a moving tribute to someone who sounds like a good man and a great father. Thank you for sharing.

Rebekah Es said...

So great, your dad knows just what he is about. And that first picture of him is great.

christinelaennec said...

Two years later, and I haven't forgotten this post in the interim. I still think of your Dad saying, when you have children some dreams die - and when I think of it, it means something very positive to me. (My mom is deliriously happy in her new house - on to a new chapter at 81!)