My Father's Impact on My Writing
15 years. Sounds like a long time, doesn’t it? It isn’t. It goes by in a flash, but at the same time, it feels like a lifetime ago. 15 years ago today my family lost my dad to cancer. Quite literally, it was the worst day of my life.
My dad was my favorite person. I inherited so much from him—his sense of humor, his brains, not so much his golf game. When I was a kid, he took me everywhere with him and would even let me stand up in the front seat of the car—ah, the eighties and their lax child safety laws. As I got older and began developing my comic book addiction, my dad became my number one enabler, taking me on weekly trips to the comic book store at the mall. In return, I got him hooked on The Fat Boys—his favorite song was “Protect Yourself (My Nuts).” Of course, as I grew into my teens, I didn’t want to be caught dead with my parents. If I had known how little time I had left with him, I would have changed my attitude. When I got to college, my dad, who had been out of work for a long time, took a job nearby—60 miles from our home. He made that commute every day to put me through college, even when he got sick, and was always there for me when I needed to come home. I loved those drives and learned a lot from him. It was obviously different from when I was a kid, but it was like old times.
He was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder in late 1996. We were hopeful he could beat it and tried several different things including some radical surgery, but he knew. He knew it would be his last fight. He held on long enough to see me get through school. I never forgot that the entire time I was at Rutgers—my father was literally killing himself to get me through. My grades weren’t all A’s, but I made damn sure I didn’t let his sacrifice go to waste while I was there. His health deteriorated rapidly after I graduated. He died in the afternoon. I was supposed to go to work that day and was playing a round of Final Fantasy VIII before my oldest sister called me into the room. By the time I got there, he was already gone. I don’t remember ever playing Final Fantasy VIII again after that. I never forgave myself for that and I doubt I ever will.
When people talk of having “father issues,” usually it’s because their fathers were absent or abusive, unloving. I didn’t have that problem. I loved my dad and he definitely loved me. My father issues stem from his death and the gaping hole it’s left in my life. Naturally, these issues work their way into my writing. Maxim Ultra, whom you’ll all meet sometime next year, definitely has a tough time shaking off his father’s shadow, while always wondering if he’d be proud of him. Jake, the star of Great Big World, has a father who’s married to his career, while his Uncle David wonders if his own father’s still alive after vanishing mysteriously. So, yeah, a lot of daddy issues pop up in my stuff and will probably continue to do so until I’m old and gray, because I’ll never stop missing my dad. For my graduation gift, he bought me my first PC because he wanted me to follow my dream, and I’m finally taking real steps to honor that.
I don’t profess to know what happens to us after we leave this world, but I hope he’s in a better place. He deserves that at least. And I hope that I’ll see him again someday.
“Love you, pal.”