Easter Sunday 1971, a lifetime ago for many, was a significant day. Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Masters Golf Championship in Augusta, an event which inspired a young Englishman, Nick Faldo, of whom I am a fan, to take up the game and later emulate his hero.
But that same day, another significant event took place. An avid golfer named Jack, though not on the same level as Nicklaus, died after a long difficult battle with Parkinson’s disease. Few people were even aware of that event. No headlines proclaimed his passing, although a brief paragraph in a local newspaper marked the milestone.
But for me that event was a life changing experience. For Jack Webster was my father.
I have many good memories of my Dad. He would take my sister and I on Sunday “adventures”. We would walk along the cliffs that towered high along the North Sea coast near where we lived. Sometimes we would go down the paths that led to the shore, and we would search for crabs or sea creatures in the rock pools. He would know of a cave where we could explore, and one you could actually go through to the other side of the cliff. He would always point out the hazards of various situations to us, and comment when he observed silly or reckless behavior, so that we would respect the dangers of such places. Other occasions, he would take us fishing, swimming, cycling, or to the golf course. Adventures with dad were a fun part of growing up.
My Dad was a pharmacist, and we would often go into his shop when we were passing to say hello. Certainly we enjoyed seeing Dad, but if the truth be known, my sister and I also knew that every time we went in, he would give us sixpence, which at that time was the wherewithal to buy a chocolate bar. If he witnessed an act of kindness, he would want to reward that. One day I remember we were fishing in the river, and he saw a young boy carrying his younger sister through a large muddy puddle to save her getting her feet wet. . That so touched him that he went over and gave sixpence to those kids. I have never forgotten that simple act. He was a kind, generous man to many, and I did not fully realize the extent or significance of that till long after his death.
The last few years of his life were not easy. There was no treatment for Parkinson’s then, and we watched this vibrant, decent, caring man struggle with a body that didn’t work anymore. Every now and then, there would be a flash of the “old Jack” with a witty or astute observation, but life became very difficult for him as well as for those who loved him. On the same day as Jack Nicklaus celebrated his victory, family and friends of Jack Webster grieved a great loss.
Perhaps what has made this long past event more significant to me recently is that my son is now the age I was when my Dad died. I realize that I am developing a relationship with my two boys that I never had with my Dad. Relationships develop over the years. The dependent relationship of child to parent hopefully becomes more a friendship between equals. Circumstances prevented me from experiencing that. Many times I wished he could have been there to see my achievements, or been there to offer sage advice, even though, in the twenty four years I knew him, Dad left a legacy of example to emulate.
Sadly, not everyone has such a positive influence in their lives, although I am never sure that we are irrevocably molded by influences, good or bad. It is not what happens, but what we DO with what happens to us that makes the difference.
Sometimes we can spend so much time lamenting what we have lost, that we fail to appreciate what we still have. As much as I missed my Dad, and the relationship we could have shared as adults, now I have the opportunity to find out how that can work with my boys, now in their twenties. Now, I am the father, and that is a gift.
Is there someone, family, friend, colleague, that YOU need to call, just to let them know that you appreciate their presence in your life. Relationships are vital, and must be maintained in the present, not just remembered in the past.