We had the big send-off for my dad on Thursday. There was no religious ceremony for my step dad, just a nice party at the St. Francis Yacht Club. I’ve been calling it his Bon Voyage. His wife, Rebecca said everyone had to check their tears at the door, and so we did. The room was full of Frank Sinatra music and a montage of images from dad’s life—from childhood through his 86 years of life. It was perfect really.
He became my step-father when I was four years old, so he’s the dad I identify with more of the two. I loved them both of course, but hour for hour-- I spent much more time with my step dad. I worked for him on and off for years. He got all the crap stuff too—the pre-adolescent mood swings, the teenage insanity, the depressed 20s the fucked up 30s. And he bailed me out, literally and figuratively of many jams.
The party was exactly what he would have wanted—I guess, at least if he were alive he would go to this kind of party. People told funny stories, and save for some laughing through the tears from his closest relatives; it was not a depressing day at all.
Several people got up to speak and tell funny stories about our dad. I had written a little something but left it in my car, I knew I wouldn’t be able to say anything without crying—and I promised him two months earlier—I would be cool, I would not fall apart during or after. I didn’t want him to have to worry about me while he was dying. It seemed like the most unselfish thing I could do for him… some small payback for the years of support and bailouts.
One man that he knew from Lake Merced Golf Club got up to speak and it didn’t immediately seem like it was going to be funny. Nice- but not funny. He talked of how my dad was always willing to help everyone, and that was true-- and how gracious and generous he was. Also, true. Then he proceeded to tell us a story of how my dad was helping him with his (golf) swing. He said. “And Don told me just stand with your feet apart and your head down, and hit that ball like you don’t give a shit.”
“Just hit that ball like you don’t give a shit.” And it hit me like a golf ball between the eyes. That is the best advice my dad never gave me.
I’ve been stuck in my writing lately. Besides emotionally drained from the last few months, I have been trying to figure out how to write nicer. Not better… nicer. And it crippled me. I haven’t been able to write a word that matters.
So, Dad, of all the advice you gave me over the last 58 years this is the best. I’m going to write like I don’t give a shit. I’m not going to worry who likes what I have to say. I have to say what I need to say. I’ve been worried about upsetting people and as a result, my silence has turned itself on me and made me sick.
I have a great niece, Jasmin, who is a writer too. She always sends me words of encouragement and tells me what a great writer she thinks I am, so I owe it to her to continue to write—so that she will continue to write. If you’re a writer, you have to write and if you have a particular voice you have to use it. It’s not an option or a hobby, it’s a compulsion and an obsession that can’t be controlled by self-will or the opinions of others. We write, because we have to.
So Jasmin my dearest, write like you don’t give a shit. Write for yourself—just keep writing.