Today I’m not going to whine about added weight or write about running or really…anything that has to do with beer, dogs or health. Today is not going to be gut splitting funny (which I always thought I had a weird sense of humor, but it makes me feel better that there are A. others out there just like me and B. there are others that think I’m funny sometimes), although I really can’t write totally serious about what I’m writing about, because the subject was NEVER serious. So you might giggle a little, but you’ll probably be a little sad too. (Just warning you.) Oh, and it’s a long one. So prop up those feet.
Today is about Mike. My dad.
Mike came into our lives a little bit differently than some people’s dad’s come into their lives (or really vice versa-you come into theirs). But at the same time, some of you might just relate to this situation too. My parents divorced when I was in middle school. It was meant to be; I never held a grudge or had serious issues with it. It just needed to happen. Then, after awhile, my mom met Mike. I think I was about 13 or 14. They met at the golf course. He played a lot and she was a bartender during the summer, not only to make a few extra bucks during her teaching break, but if she worked at the club, she could play for free (and so could my brother and I.)
I really don’t remember the details, but they dated for a short period before they decided to get hitched. And once they decided that, Mike moved in with my mom, my brother, and I. That was a little different. First, I didn’t really get to know Mike very well before he moved in. I mean, he came over, I knew he was dating my mom, I knew that someday they might get married, but I tried not to think about it. Second, I was perfectly content having my mom all to myself. And that was totally interrupted by some dude who made weird jokes and drove a Tahoe (which I secretly thought was so cool).
He never had any biological kids, so he walked in at the WORST possible time to try and become parent of the year….2 teenagers going through puberty. It was special.
As you can probably imagine, I didn’t just magically fall into some father/daughter loving relationship like what happens in those cheesy Lifetime movies. I fought tooth and nail to make it very uncomfortable for him, putting it mildly. I did what every teenager does to their parents….I was rude, selfish, bitchy, moody, angry….basically a really tall and skinny gremlin with brown hair. But he took it, and never said a word.
I remember one time my mom and I were yelling at the top of our lungs (I have no idea about what now, imagine that). She’s standing at the bottom of the stairs and I’m at the top. (There’s no way in hell to have a knock-down-drag-out-yelling match with a teenager in one room…it has to be in separate rooms, causing you to raise your voices to ear piercing levels.) About 10 minutes in, Mike comes around the corner and says, “HEY! Can we just sit down and talk calmly about this?” Both mom and I look at him and yell, “NO!!!” We stomp off in different directions and slam doors (because slamming doors also happens a lot when you’re a teen and arguing). He had to just be standing there, staring at thin air and wondering what the hell he got himself into. (I would have gone screaming in the other direction by now.)
My hating life and the situation went on till I was about 22 or so. A long time. Way longer than it should have. For some reason, at 23 I kind of ‘came around’. I started working on my self esteem and going to counseling and staying out of the bar district of college (well, not totally, but enough to pass most of my classes). This is when I really looked at Mike with a whole new perspective. He’d stuck around. He hadn’t left or treated my mom or my brother or I like dirt. He was a good guy. A really good guy.
Also, about this time, was when his weird health problems started. I’m a little fuzzy on the order of everything that happened, being that it was awhile ago, but the doctors thought that he might be getting MS. Then he had this weird artery hemorrhage on his forehead that he had to have removed through surgery. His liver basically shut down. He also started stressing out about a lot of things. He got migraines terrible, to the point of getting sick and having to be in bed, no lights, no sound, no movement. That wasn’t all, there was more, a lot more, but to keep this novel shorter than the length of the dictionary, in the end....he got cancer.
|Me and Mike at Father/Daughter Day at KSU, 2000.|
|Mom, Me, Mike, my brother Michael|
College graduation, May 2007
I found out a lot about Mike in the last 7 or so years that I had my head out of my ass. He helped out with some of my college bills, just like any old parent, which I had no idea he was doing at the time. He worried a lot about me when I was depressed. He used to talk with my mom about it all the time. Didn’t know that till later either. He was a writer. He wrote all sorts of short stories and little bits of Indian history throughout his life. (Mike was Prairie Band Potawatomi Indian) He cared, a lot, about other people. He helped a lot of people; someone he knew on the Reservation or just a perfect stranger. He acted like a kid most of his life. He had ‘toys’ like bulldozers and cranes (no shit, we had a huge construction crane as ‘yard art’ for about 5 years, we lived in the country, so no one really cared.) I’d come home from college and ask mom where Mike was and her reply was, “oh, he’s on his machine, riding it around the property.” “Doing what,” I’d ask. “Oh, just riding it.” And you’d see him, up on the hill, just puttin’ along in his bulldozer, with a huge smile on his face.
|Mike teaching me to drive the bulldozer. Seriously.|
|Something like this was sitting next to the driveway in my mom's flowerbeds.|
|Family South Dakota Trip, I think 2008|
Ryan, Me, Mom, Mike, Michael, Jennifer, and their daughter Trinity
|Mike's 50 + 365 day Birthday Party, 2010|
He didn't get a 50th, so we had a big deal on his 51st.
|Father Daughter dance at my wedding, Sept. 2009.|
|Mom and Mike after the ceremony.|
His funeral was one to remember, and it might seem weird that I tell you about it, but you’ll understand after you read this: It was so humid that day. Sweat was just pouring out of our skin. We barely made it to the funeral home and in the doors without getting huge pit stains. We all sat down and the pastor started the service. About 20 minutes in, just after the pastor had given the 'church' service part and a song had been sung, it was time to ‘share stories about Mike’. That’s what Mike wanted, people to come up and share anything and everything, funny or sad. Just as the pastor was saying, “Anyone, please come forward.” The lights go out. Pitch black. We all just kind of look around and shrug. I look at mom, she looks at the pastor and says, “Well, Mike never wanted a funeral service anyway.” And the pastor replied, “Well, I guess he’s not getting one then.” We all laughed. The lights stayed out for the rest of the service. Numerous stories were told in the small glow of the flood lights, funny and heartwarming. And when the last person sat down, the pastor started to ‘close up’ the service. Right then the lights came back on. I am not kidding you. We all giggled again and looked up and each one of us was thinking, ‘Nice trick Mike.’ (We talked about it afterwards that we could just picture Mike up there, right next to God, saying, “OK, let's shut off the lights now, that’d be pretty funny.” Then he and God would have a good belly rolling laugh at our expense.)
We didn’t find out until the lights came back on that a huge storm rolled through at the time of the service. Mike’s Indian name, Ne-se-Ka, literally means: Rolling Thunder. Coincidence?I wanted to write about Mike because he was a very important part of my life, and he still is a very important part of my life. And I wanted to share all that importance with you all. It's funny how life works out sometimes. I would not be in the same place now without Mike. And I don't think he would have been in the place he had been without me. Everything is a circle. Every action has a reaction. And I fully believe he is up there right now, watching me write this, and smiling because he's so proud of me.
I will never forget him and he will forever be with me.