Bill Packard: 'Tell your dad how much he means to you'

Mon, 06/17/2013 - 2:45pm

I miss my father. I'm not a kid. At 64, you'd think I could function on my own. I do all right, but I miss my Dad. He had a great life and he was a great man. I never met anyone that had a bad word to say about him. Wish I could say the same about me. I guess its O.K. to feel that you're not the father your dad was. Big shoes to fill. Sometimes, I just wish I could talk to him. Talking to him was always important to me. Probably as a teenager, I did some things that he didn't approve of, but I didn't know then how much it meant to me to do what he would want. Not to please him. He was pleased with me as I was. But to do what he would want me to do. How difficult it is to send the message to your kids that you are pleased with what they do, and at the same time give them direction to do the right thing.

Dad was 48 when I was born. Certainly not your typical father age. His life was established and comfortable, and I changed everything for him. I never knew. I never realized growing up that my parents could have been parents to all the other kids' parents. That realization came years later. Life was good. It was great to be a kid. My Dad was steady as a rock. He taught me to work hard at whatever I did, and he taught me to make do with what I had. Both of those lessons served me well, I think. We weren't poor or struggling, but the message of "Make do with what you have," was always very clear. Mom always had big plans for me. Go to college. Get a "good" job. Not have to work as hard as she and dad did. I let Mom down. Time after time. Lots of things entered into that, but nonetheless, I let her down. As time went on, my letting her down became almost an obsession with her. It was what she talked about whenever we got together. She died feeling that I had let her down. Dad never said a thing. If I was happy, he was happy.

It's been quite a while since Dad passed away. He was in Florida and I was in Maine. I struggled. I mean I really struggled. I went back and forth from Maine to Florida. We both knew his time was short, and when I was there, I knew it meant a lot to him, but he knew I had a family and without saying anything, he let me know that I needed to be with them.

I was in Maine when he died. We'd said our goodbyes before I came home, but I always wished that I could have been there. I'd have to say the most difficult thing in my life was the death of my Dad. Maybe it's a guy thing. We hide our emotions. Hard to express love to anyone but our wife and kids, and even that we struggle with. Man. That was a tough deal. I used to go visit his grave a lot. We'd talk. Sometimes for a long time. Actually, I was the one who talked, but it felt as though he was still alive and listening. I guess I believe he was listening, and still listens. The trips to the cemetery became too difficult so I stopped going. But I still talk to Dad. When something is particularly difficult or I don't know what the right thing to do is, I talk to Dad. I do what he thinks I should do.

A couple of things about my Dad really stand out all these years later. Once, when I was playing farm team little league, he left the stands after a game and explained to the coach that it was a farm team and that everyone should get a chance to play. He wasn't able to attend many games and I was just glad that he was there, even if I didn't play. He was hot, but I remember him asking the coach how he thought the lesser players would ever get better if he never let them play. The coach didn't have an answer. That was about the only time I saw my father angry. Another time, and this is all very complicated, he and Mom could have been charged with a very serious crime. Of course they never committed any serious crime, but being accused was serious enough for them. Dad never backed down from what he knew was the right thing to do. Everything worked out all right, but it wasn't until years later that I realized the potential of that situation, and what could have happened to them. Dad didn't care. He did what had to be done and what he knew was right.

It's cost me to follow that lead, and I don't regret a bit of it. People know that I mean what I say and I do what I promise. It sounds so simple, but it's something that all too often is hard to back up. Most of the time, when you take a stand, you pay a price. Worked for Dad and it works for me. It's always nice to get a card or gift on Father's Day, but I think it means more to most dads just to know that their kids love them. And it's also important to dads to know that their kids are trying to understand them. That's the hard part. The understanding. Tell your dad how much he means to you.

I know that sometimes the father/child relationship gets so messed up that they decide to not speak to each other. If that's where you're at, think about it a lot. Think about what drove you apart and how serious it really is. If it's really that serious, I understand. If it's not that serious an issue, say you're sorry. Work it out.

Father's Day always makes me think about my dad and how much I miss him. It's always kind of bittersweet, too, because I know I'll never be the dad that he was. Life is good. I keep trying. If you are lucky enough to have your dad around, all he wanted from you this Father's Day is a call or a visit. How much is that to ask? You might also tell him what I'm told my father.

I love you, Dad.


Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of  He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant. 


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