Of all the stories my dad has told before, there’s a few that stick out like a Morris Day jacket at an all white Diddy party in the Hamptons. There’s one about monkeys fighting over a watch, one happening to eat it and offering a “that’s the shit you gotta watch” moment before the other monkey spins back with a quick reply, “No that’s the watch you gotta shit.” That’s not even the best one.

The best one pertains to me being a kid and him stumbling upon Ruyard Kipling’s “If” poem. You know, the one that defines a man as one who keeps his head while all others around him are losing theirs. It’s sat in my room, laminated in brown paper for probably 20 years at this point and it remains arguably the best gift my dad ever got me. He told me one day, “I’ll give you $100 if you ever manage to learn that poem word for word and recite it back to me.” So for a week straight, I tried and tried to remember it. My eyes got big at the idea of $100 in my pocket so I just wanted to do whatever necessary to obtain it. After a week, I told him I was ready and tried.

I didn’t even get past the first stanza without stumbling on my face.

He laughed and then told me to pick myself up and try again but that initial feeling of shame crushed me. I hadn’t tried to pull off the feat in front of him and after a while, the idea of $100 just seemed miniscule. Years later, after all the years he carried me and my mom on his back through his demons with his job and maintaining the house, he got sick. Doctors said he was in critical condition and my body damn near burst out of itself. The part of being a son whose father is set to leave him is one I never wanted to endure, even if he constantly told me “you’ve been given the curse of old parents.”

That was a year ago in August when he got that bad. I’ve assumed control of his business every step of the way and through long nights and slow times I keep wondering how was he able to pull it off. How? How in the world could he just continue to strive for something knowing that it may not get him to a place he wanted to be? But that’s what fathers do, they make men out of their children sometimes without even directly having to do so.

He’ll tell me about his wild times in California, or how big of a hippie he was and tried every drug known to man in his twenties – but I’ll never forget “If”.

Happy birthday old man.

(Oh, and as far as Zapp & Roger is concerned, do you need any other reason to hear the talk box from Roger Troutman and not need to pop lock or something? Didn’t think so.)

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