I’ve realized that much of our [un]conscious thought, words, or writing is often the partially digested stimulatory input we’ve received from others, books, or media influence. It’s nearly impossible to have an original thought. However, I’ll do my best to put these words out in a way that came from my heart, and my heart alone.
Whether or not we like to admit it, the relationship that exists between father and son is not always perfect. Personally, I can think of countless inconsistencies and flaws that existed between my father and I. And yet, it was in this imperfect relationship that a wonderful relationship existed. There were many times where strong words flew, only to be softened by the memories where laughter, love, and the strong bond between father and son erased any possible negative taste our relationship would have left in my mouth. In life, it seems, we spend most of our time spent in conflict. And yet, we remember the good, the perfect, and the love over all negative times. Perhaps all of us become saints when we die. Perhaps none of us could have been saints while we were alive.
Today, being Father’s Day, is a day I look forward to with bittersweet eagerness. Part of me yearns to connect, once again, with my father. On the other hand, I feel a dutiful sense of responsibility to urge others to take advantage of their loved ones and truly appreciate the time they have with them. However, I never really do this. Perhaps it’s not my responsiblity. Looking back at the number of Father’s Days our family was abile to celebrate together, I think mostly of the lost opportunities we had, or the broken promises that were kept alive from year to year. And I come to realize that, in light of the poor experiences or broken promies that existed, our family did share a true love connection. And, try as I can, to remember the bitterness associated with the broken promises, it is hard for me to muster any feelings of ill will.
There were many things I learned from my father. He often taught me lessons that were meant to be followed through not making simliar mistakes as the ones he made. However, he also taught me many things that were meant to be followed, as I mature into a strong man and, hopefully, one day, a husband.
While my father was not always able to keep good on his promises or commitments – a negative trait I seem to have inherited – what I learned from him is that his passionate desire to meet them was always alive. See, many simply don’t want to do more, be more, or dream for more; they become complacent within their life and accept mediocrity as the punishment for their inactivity. My father may never have lived in his ritzy Manhattan loft apartment — but his dream for it never died. He may have had many imperfections as a father, always overpromising more than he was able to deliver — but, in a perfect world, my father would have been able to live up to these promises and his actions would match the measure of his heart’s intentions.
Perhaps none of us will ever be able to fully realize the desires of our hearts. Or, worse, we will create desires and ambitions that we are able to comfortably meet. That’s as close to Hell as I ever want to go. What my father planted in my heart was the seed of possibility; the desire to pursue great things in light of poor circumstances, odds, or personal ability to see something through to completion. There were many things he left unfinished, leaving us wondering why he didn’t take the small amounts of time in order to finish these things. However, I believe the sign of many great individuals is the ability to climb a mountain that will continue to be climbed after their death. Walt Disney proclaimed “I see a mountain” — a dream that was realized only after his death.
“Greater love has not man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
In many senses, I feel as if my father laid down a lot of things in order to pursue the life of a father. There were many things in his life that I wish had been done differently. However, I believe he counted the cost – even if he may not have understood it – of having children and being a father.
Seeing my father pass away was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. There are no entrance exams that prepare you for the passing of a close loved one. I’ve heard many times “I don’t know how you did it…I couldn’t” in relation to losing a loved one. Honestly, do you think it was something I was carefully chosen for? Or, perhaps, something we volunteered for? Strength isn’t developed when you do something you know you can do, but when you pursue something you aren’t able to do…yet.
Reading through “The Empty Hourglass” I begin to pick up pieces of the Plaat lineage. It’s an imperfect tale, full of poor choices and circumstances. However, the vein that runs strongest through this bloodline is strong family bond, love, and the mindset that it’s possible to live a life that is truly extraordinary. Perhaps my father didn’t live a life as extraordinary as my grandfather; being shot down from the sky, surviving shark encounters, beating malaria, or starting black market operations for fun, I believe he sacrificed the opportunity for adventure in order to give six strong children this same opportunity. There’s never a part of me that ever questions the love and passion our dad had for all of his children.
And so this post is dedicated to a man whom I miss very dearly. He may not have been perfect, but he tried. Many men will leave behind fortunes and estates for their family to fight over. Dad did not. Instead, he left behind the pieces of great mountains that have yet to be climbed. And, if I take the time to shut out my thoughts and the outside noise, I can hear his voice deep inside of me, urging me to push forward and climb the mountain. The summit is yours is your want it.
Happy Father’s Day.
In loving memory of Willem Plaat. 5/31/1957 – 7/29/2007.
Father. Friend. Superman.
See you soon, Superman.