Learning to Fly
Once upon an average morn
An average boy was born for the second time
Prone upon the altar there
He whispered up the prayer he’d kept hid inside
A lot of things changed after Dad passed away. I found myself included in the bucket of young men who faced life without the guidance of a father. There were many days where I felt sad, hopeless, and lost.
Dad made a lot of memories with his children, because he made sure to take time out of his day to include us in the seemingly mundane activities that filled his day – shopping for computers, trips to the hardware store, or taking us on late night adventures to client offices.
I especially enjoyed going to client offices with him. It made me feel important to sit in the chairs of his clients and imagine my Dad giving them technical advice for all of their IT-related problems.
After Dad passed, it was difficult to navigate through Columbus without being reminded of these memories. To this day, I still look for him in the corner of the Olentangy Plaza Panera Bread, thinking he’ll still be there, working away on his laptop.
It was a difficult place to be without a father before I could legally buy a beer. My inner fears projected themselves into voices of doubt; questioning whether or not I’d be able to make it through life without the guidance of my Dad.
Navigating my way through the loss, I began to understand the ‘wound’ given to me by my Dad. This ‘wound’ is a concept written about by Robert Bly (and plagiarized unapologetically by John Eldridge) in his book Iron John: A Book about Men.
The wound is a hurt given to the son by the father. It can take many shapes, sizes, and instances. It’s through this hurt that the boy becomes a man, because his soul is able to enter (and escape) through the gash he received.
It became very clear to me that Dad’s passing was the wound he dealt me. His death was my opportunity to brush away hot tears and pick up the journey where he left off.
Most dead celebrities become immortalized beyond their flaws. Something about the tragedy of their death makes us brush away poor choices, drug addictions, and failed relationships. For better or for worse, these things fade into black once a person does, too.
Dad was no different. Was he a perfect man? Husband? Father?
No. Nobody is perfect. Wim Plaat was no exception.
As a child, I imagined my parents were perfect. After all, they were the ones who put a roof over my head, cared for me, and seemed to know how to drive well. It wasn’t until I got older that I started to realize they were just as prone to failure as anybody else.
Dad provided his family with a plethora of memories. Some were easy to handle. While others took more time and patience to fully understand.
After his death, I had the opportunity to take his actions and words into inventory – sorting through the things he did (or didn’t do) that hurt me the most. There seemed to be a common theme among all of the hurts; Dad didn’t keep his word.
Sifting through the hurts, I swore I wouldn’t repeat the same sins as my Dad. Thus, I entered my 20’s with a vengeance that I would somehow get it right where Dad had failed.
At this point, I realized that I was now on the same track my Dad had exited – life. I did my best to muster my strength and courage for the battles ahead.
The vision came
He saw the odds
A hundred little gods on a gilded wheel
“These will vie to take your place, but Father
By your grace I will never kneel”
Little did I know that the next decade of my life would look a lot more like pain and defeat than the victorious champion I imagined myself to be.
Before he passed away, I told Dad that I would provide for the family. At that time, I didn’t realize just how difficult it was to put food on the table for one person – much less, a family of 8.
These revelations brought on feelings of pain behind my wound. The pain I felt no longer felt like it was done to me by my Dad. Rather, it began to ebb as a shared pain we both experienced, because we had both dug in to create the wound.
I feared going into my 20’s without a Dad. Even if we disagreed, it was nice to have somebody to call, share accomplishments (or hurts) with, and traverse Columbus, OH, during the wee hours of the night.
Even though Dad wasn’t with us anymore, I still felt the urge to call him – expecting to hear the phone ring with his voice on the other end. On several occasions, I remember picking up my phone to begin dialing his number, only to realize he wasn’t able to pick up.
These moments were often triggered by events in my life that I knew Dad would appreciate. The day I got a new car stereo, for example.
Celebrating a new job, I drove to the local Circuit City and told the sales rep that I was interested in upgrading my car stereo.
When he asked what I wanted, I responded:
“Only the best.”
Dad was an avid audiophile – teaching his kids to appreciate the joy that comes from a hi-fidelity stereo system or pair of headphones. As a result, I developed a taste for crystal-clear audio and wanted my car system to be the best possible.
After the installation was complete, I pulled away from Circuit City and instinctively picked up my phone to call Dad.
Hot tears ran down my cheeks when I realized Dad wasn’t there to pick up the phone. Sitting there, I realized the one person I wanted to share the moment with wasn’t there. Dad.
The joy of the new stereo didn’t come close to covering the wave of emotion that surged as a son longed for his Father.
I would have given a kidney to share just one ride with Dad in that car. The car he left me before he left us. Just once, I wanted him to see his son fire up the engine, crank the Pioneer stereo, and cruise down the country roads of Ohio while listening to Alice Cooper.