Nine years ago today, I lost my dad to cancer. Groundhog Day is always sad for me -- I never quite know what to do with myself. At his request, I scattered his ashes in the Gulf of Mexico off of Siesta Key Florida, where he lived his last 10 years; if I could, I'd walk down to Crescent Beach there to watch the sunrise and think about him and set a flower afloat. This picture of the two of us was taken in about 1992, on the dock in his backyard at Siesta Key. I honestly do think about him every single day. The pain of losing a parent becomes less sharp over time, but it never goes away. He knew Dean was born and was delighted -- especially that we followed family tradition and gave him "Austin" as his middle name (my dad's, my great-grandfather's, my brothers' and nephews' middle name as well); "Dean" was also my way of honoring my dad, who was Denis. But he never met Dean. He was already very, very sick by that time and then my sister, against Dad's wishes, moved him to Seattle -- long story, but the result was that I wasn't able to show him his last grandson.
He was an interesting guy. He taught me how to fish (we spent hours upon hours on that dock of his), he shared his love of old movies, Cubs baseball, and Bears football with me. He showed me precisely why the work of Walt Disney was genius (Dad, too, worked in film and animation) and he gave me his recipe for red beans and rice. He worried about me ("you're working too hard") and he would have been very proud to hear when I was promoted to Senior Vice President at my old job. He would have been awed, perplexed, delighted, and worried when I walked away from that job to take the job at Dean's school but he would have loved Dean to pieces and would have told me what a good job Ken and I were doing raising him. I remind Dean to take off his hat in restaurants ("do it for Grandpa Denis"), to shake hands and look a person in the eye when he meets them, to see the beauty in nature, to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and to tell good jokes whenever the opportunity arises. And I taught Dean to fish. I guess if I had one wish, it would have been that the three of us could have spent time fishing together. "Fish fish fish!" Dad would have said, and then we'd have all cast our lines in and settled back to enjoy the sunrise and the comfortable silence of simply being together.