With Gratitude

Dad — what does it mean to say the word, and have someone to say it to? I was brought into a world that seemed predetermined: a family, a mom and a dad, a roof over my head, a bed to crawl into every night, food on the table, an education, belief in myself, love.

As a kid I didn’t think about what having parents meant; I had my mom and dad, and am lucky enough to have a stepmom. It was life for me, and that made it normal. At times I was ungrateful. I told them that I hated them and believed it. I acted up, fought with my brother, and did the things normal kids do.

Normal kids.

I didn’t think about what it meant to live in the United States; we traveled on vacations, and those were times I loved. But California is where I’m from, and that would always be home.

I didn’t think about what it meant to have a roof over my head; never thought that coming home from school, opening the front door, and saying helllooo made me special.

I was just a normal kid.

I hoped for the days when my parents would leave, so it would be just me.

I’d play video games on rainy days and summer nights.

I’d eat dinner at the table with something on TV.

I’d go to soccer games on Saturday’s and my brother’s surf contests, often reluctantly, when I’d rather be with my friends.

I’d crawl into my bed with surfboards on it, tiki torches, famous surf spots.

I’d fall asleep dreaming.

At 6:50, which seemed like the middle of the night, I’d draw out the scalding shower for as long as I could, not wanting to step into the cold, the official start of another day. At school I had my best friends.

Our laughs at passing period would resound around campus. In the morning with our hoodies tied, we’d savor the minutes discussing Kobe Bryant’s buzzer beater from the night before.

The morning instilled us with a day’s worth of trash talk and joy.
We’d need it.

Practice after school, then home: dinner, maybe a movie with family, and homework in one of those “soft books,” the bane of my teenage existence.

I wasn’t special. I wasn’t in any AP classes; I didn’t go to South America in the summer on a mission trip. I did work at the Christmas tree lot, which I loved, but it was required. The lingering scent on my clothes made it all worthwhile.

I was a normal kid.

I never feared for my life (except on roller coasters).

I never wondered if I’d have enough to eat, only what was for dinner.

I never slept on the floor, or found intrinsic joy in learning.

I never knew what I had.

A life that’s anything but normal.

My dad visited me yesterday — I’m in San Diego, he’s in LA. Not too far, but we don’t see one another as often as we used to.

I wrote a story recently about something he asked me. He asked if I’m happy.

Last night, I told him about writing the story, and what the question meant to me. I started to cry, even though I still held back. But it’s okay. It was a start.

I don’t know the last time I’ve cried with my dad. It’s not really something you’re supposed to do as a man.

Not supposed to show how much you hurt.

Not supposed to ask for help, because we should be strong enough, capable enough, competent enough to figure shit out on our own.

Not supposed to say I love you. Who cares what we’re supposed to do.

More of a man who doesn’t judge, but sees every soul as beautiful. Who lives to help, who is human, and tries when he can. Who’s there for their kids, their family, their friends, whoever needs a hand. Who builds others up to be the best that they can be. Whose mind is open, without preconceived notions.

Dad — what does it mean to say the word, and have a man to say it to? I don’t know how to appreciate the life I have, where I can cry and then laugh with my role model, my dad.

Where I can call my mom for anything, and feel a greater peace when I hang up the phone.

To have the contact, mom, in my phone.

Where I can walk down the street and look into the open sky; it means every day is nothing short of a miracle.

Life happens, and I’ll get caught up in routine, and I’ll wonder what I’m doing. But this, this is where we may always return. Gratitude.

Gratitude may be expressed in the faintest of moments, like smiling at a bird or saying thanks before a meal. In marveling at a flower, or the fact that you are here. You’re here. A miraculous creature, a boundless spirit, a heart beating endless love.

I’m so damn grateful to be alive. I hope that you are too.

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