I never had a strong father figure in my life. My own father fell victim to a downward spiral of drugs and suicide. I grew up feeling bitter, but resolute that I could face the world as my own man. Too often, my pride got in the way and I ended up struggling to learn life’s hardest lessons. Though I had no one to teach me how to become an better person, I set out to do the best I could. I was lonely and distraught inside but, I put on a happy face for others to see and made sure I was kind and giving in every way that I could. I gave everything that I could, sacrificing much so that other people could prosper or even just survive. I wanted to inspire others to do the same, rising above the social norm of only looking out for yourself, to be truly altruistic and helping others just because it was the right thing to do. I haven’t met many that were willing to take up that lifestyle, and I grew evermore cynical to the future of the human race.
Then I met Uncle Phil.
At first, he was the just the loudest person in the room at holiday gatherings, his cheerful laugh conjuring images of Santa Claus and mighty voiced lumberjacks, filling a room with mirth and good tidings. Then as I came to know him better, he was the man with the rapier wit and risque humor, ready to turn any story into a bawdy joke. Finally, I knew him as a man of pure heart and selfless giving. He stepped up to offer Loni and I a house to stay in over the summer, while we transitioned between community college and the university. Many a night, he stayed up with us, sharing soda’s while we swapped stories of family, conquests, and memories long past. Through his help, I was able to finally recognize some of the more fundamental truths about what it is to be a man. To stand on my own two feet, to be confident and strong, while at the same time being gentle and kind. Anytime a need arose, he offered to help. The only payment he demanded was that we try our best and appreciate what we have.
Well my wife and graduated college in 2010. Loni became the proud owner of two degrees, one in Microbiology and the other in Genetics. She put forward her best efforts and the extra work needed to secure two degrees in some of the most difficult career fields around. I graduated magna cum laude with an Honors degree in the Fine Arts and the first ever art student to receive the President’s Award from Washington State University. I also founded a student group that created philanthropic programs and developed arts education classes for kids.
After graduation, we welcomed our daughter, Liliara, into the world. I became a full time, stay-at-home father and had the amazing experience of becoming the very man that I was always searching for. I have Phil to thank for that.
My wife is taking the next step in her career path, by becoming a Food Safety Plant Manager, creating protocols and developing criteria for keeping others safe. I have continued on in my studies and have been offered a full scholarship for graduate school at both Carnegie Mellon and the University of Bologna in Italy.
Well, Uncle Phil. We did the best we could and we kicked school’s ass. We reaped the rewards for our efforts and we are ready to take the next step with our lives. You were a huge part in that and I can never thank you enough. I will continue on helping others, to give when I can, and to honor your memory by passing on that amazing spirit and outlook that you possessed. While I am not there in body, I am here in words. I raise a root beer in toast to you good sir and will always remember you as the both the man and the father that I always wanted to meet and that one day I will become.
Love ya big guy.