My dad is 75 and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. 

But, that’s not why I forgave him. 

I spent years being angry with my dad. 

For not believing in me. 

For not encouraging me. 

For not listening to me. 

When I was young and needed it most. 

I remember when I first started doing road gigs…

I was having these amazing adventures.

Traveling to places I’d never seen. 

Meeting interesting people.

Performing great shows. 

Feeling like I’d found my calling.

I would call my dad from the road to tell him all about it. 

He’d listen, murmuring a few responses, and then say…

“Are you gonna look for a job when you get home?”

Fuck, Dad,” I wanted to yell, “This IS my job! I’m DOING it now!”

I was rail thin as a teenager.

This concerned my dad.

He probably worried that I couldn’t defend myself. 

To motivate toughness, he would randomly punch me (hard!) in the shoulder and call me “spaghetti arms.”

Dad rarely came to my little league baseball games, but the time I hit an inside-the-park homerun, he was there in the stands with my mother. 

After sliding into home in a glorious cloud of orange dust, beating the throw by inches, I dashed beyond the dugout to where my parents were sitting. 

My mom jumped up to hug me and said, “That was so great!”

Dad said, “Yeah, thanks to the other team’s errors.”


Now… on the spectrum of “Bad Dad” behavior, this is pretty low-level stuff. 

Some people, it seems, are born evil.

Other people learn evil to cope with evils they’ve been dealt.

Many of those people become fathers. 

If you had the awful luck of being one of their kids, I’m truly sorry.

I can only imagine how being told to celebrate “Father’s Day” feels for you.

Comparatively, being misunderstood by a simple-minded dad is a gift

However, none of us makes it to adulthood without wounds from the blades and daggers our parents wield over us growing up.

As parents, our humble goal is to do a better job of parenting than our parents did. 

People love to say, “there’s no manual for parenting.” 

Yet, if you search Amazon there are over 50,000 of them.

Which verifies the sentiment.

Parenting is the ultimate definition of “on-the-job training.”

No matter how well you prepare, things are going to break. 

Glass will break.

Agreements will break. 

Nerves will break.

Trust will break.

I do believe, though, as parents, there is ONE thing we can keep from breaking, to have a shot at repairing all the broken things…

And that’s communication

The things we say.

The things we don’t say. 

The things we say after saying the thing we shouldn’t have said. 

When my son was five years old, I yelled at him for being overzealous with the garden hose while “helping me” wash the car. 

We were both crushed by it. 

He was in his room, where I’d sent him, deciding (maybe for the first time) that I was a total dick.

I was in the driveway, spraying soap off the (actual) car, doing the same.  

So, I went in, sat on his bed, and apologized. 

I needed him to know that, while his hosing skills did need work, my outburst was about me, not about him

“When I was your age, my father would sometimes get mad and yell at me when I wanted to help him do stuff,” I said. 

“It made me feel stupid and small, and I want you to know that is not at all how I think about you.

“I’m going to try my best to never do that again. But, if I do, please know it is just me being impatient. 

“And if I ever hurt your feelings, I want you to tell me so we can talk about it. Deal?”

He shook his head, wiped his tears, and we hugged it out.

Did it ever happen again?


Does he tell me when I do or say something that upsets him?

Not always.

Are there times when tough love is more effective than kindness?


But, knowing the channel is open – in both directions – makes a big difference. 

My son is 19, a gigging musician, and planning to move to Nashville next year. 

In a fateful turn of irony, just yesterday his mom and I asked if he was considering getting a job. 

Same shit, better tact.  

A few years ago, I took my father on a trip to our hometown of Lowell, MA to visit family. 

Lowell hasn’t changed much in the four decades since we left (or when Jack Kerouac left in the late 40s, for that matter). 

We spent a day driving around to all dad’s former houses and haunts. 

He told me stories I’d never heard before, about his childhood, his family, and about his love affair with my mom (she died in 1999 – almost half my life ago).

My dad’s dad, if not quite evil, was an abusive piece of dirt.

He left his family when my dad was a teen and eventually died alone in Spokane, WA.

Driving to the airport for the flight home, dad and I were reminiscing about the trip – about life.

He said, “I know I screwed a few things up. It’s true what they say, ‘there’s no manual for being a parent’.”

Then, in a solemn tone I’ve rarely heard from him, “Is there anything… you know, lingering, that you want to talk about?”

I thought for a minute. Pondering. A few fading scars flaring to an itch. 

“No. I’m good,” I said, earnestly.

“I think I got lucky. You’re a good dad.”

Stay strong today,

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