Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

Me, my nephew Zach, and Dad, 1981

My dad always had ways of letting me know that he was looking out for me and that he was proud to have me as a son. That was most evident when he was introducing me to his friends and aquaintences. He would alway have this beaming smile on his face when he would list some of my accomplishments. Or after I left home for college, whenever I would go home for a visit, we would always have at least one day where we would go and play a round of golf, or go out for breakfast- just me and him. Or sometimes he would call me outside to show me something new he had done to the yard and get my opinion on how it looked.

Dad and Me, 1988

Then there were the times when he would go outside of his realm just to be supportive of me- like year he coached my baseball team.

I was always a pretty good baseball player when I was a kid, but the summer after sixth grade I had one really standout year. In 21 games I hit 15 home runs, made very few fielding errors playing third base and left field, and even pitched four games going 3-1. We didn't keep ERA stats in little league but I was a big kid with one good pitch. My not-so-well-controlled, high velosity fastball scared most kids into whiffing. They never knew exactly where it was going to go, but they knew it would be coming fast. (For that matter- I didn't really know where it was going to go either. I just threw it as hard as I could.) Thus I had a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of runs scored against me.

At the end of each season our league would choose an all-star team that would go and play against the best of all the other different leagues around the Omaha metro area. And although I had some of the better stats of any of the kids in the league, I wasn't chosen for the All-Star team that year. However, several of the other coaches' sons did make the team even though some of their stats weren't even close to matching up with mine.

Baseball, 1977

Let's just say that my dad wasn't too happy about that. So the next year, he signed up to coach baseball. While he was a fan of watching me play baseball, he had never coached it before. His experience was pretty much going to all of my practices for six years and seeing what all the other coaches did. But he did his best, used the experience of his assistants well, and our team came in third place in the final league standings. I still didn't make the All-Star team- with the fence and the pitchers mound moved back in that next higher level, I had a much more average season and other kids deserved their spots more than I did. (Plus- the other kids figured out how to hit my only pitch.) But I really appreciated my dad trying something that wasn't really his "thing" just to help out his kid.

Zach and Dad, 2003

Being retired for over 10 years has mellowed my dad quite a bit. He still spends time working around the yard, making improvements, and he still always asks my opinion when I'm home. I don't get there as often, but when I do, he still always gets me away for a round of golf or takes me out for breakfast or a beer and to show me off to a couple of his friends around town.

I also find myself trying to do things for my kids that he did for me. For example, I try to coach my kids in every sport they participate in- because I remember how much I appreciate him trying it for me that time. I also always try to praise my kids to others- everybody knows how proud of my kids I am.

I don't get to Omaha as much as I'd like to anymore, but I never forget how much I love and appreciate my dad for the things he has done for me in my life.

Thanks Dad and Happy Father's Day!

When I went to Nigeria last year and met my birth-father, Udeh-Ekeh, it was one of those surreal moments in my life where I was speechless. How do you express the feelings you have of meeting someone who is a major part of you but that you have never known? And yet I also felt an immediate, natural pull on my heart in seeing someone whom I looked like, whose blood I shared, and whose history was also mine. While it never diminishes my feelings and bond to the family that I grew up with, this natural pull that I have with my natural family is also unmistakable.

Joyful first meeting with Udeh-Ekeh

From the very first contact by mail, Udeh-Ekeh has welcomed me into the Ogike family as though I had been a part of the family my whole life. Everyone in the village of Aboh-Orlu treated me as their son, someone with all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of being the first son of their chief. I was family. I was Aboh.

I realize I have much to learn about being my father's son, but there are a few things I already know. My father has been very gracious to me and I wish I could afford to go to Nigeria more often to see him and my family there. I know there are good things coming that may make it easier for me.

I also know that my father has a love for his family and for his home that suprasses every other important thing in his life. He wants the best for his children (including me) and prays often for our well being.

I'd like to think that until last year, there was always a sense in my father, when he looked at his family, something was missing. The picture wasn't complete.

The Ogikes, 1982

But now, I know he can say that it is complete.

The Ogikes, 2004

Happy Father's Day, Udeh-Ekeh!

When you get married you not only gain a soulmate for life, you also gain a whole new set of realtives. I knew after our second date that I would marry Laura. I knew after my first meeting with her father, Tom, that gaining a father-in-law was going to be a really good thing. That initial instinct has never failed me.

I couldn't have been luckier in the father-in-law department had I gone out and searched for the father-in-law first before choosing a mate.

Tom and me

Happy Father's Day Tom! I am so glad to have you in my life!

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