I think of my father when I am sailing down a snow-covered mountain on what amounts a wooden board strapped to my feet. I follow my dad until he gets out of sight, then I go where I think he’ll end up. He’s paused to make sure my mom and I are behind him. He yells ‘follow me’ and we dip into powder softer and sweeter than icing. The road at the bottom is endless.
I listen to my Pandora Playlist from high school, full of Jason Marz and Maroon 5 things I haven’t listened to in years. I wonder, as I make my turns on instinct what makes a good person.
My father once locked me in the laundry room when I was about four and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the night. That doesn’t quite seem like a good person move, but the more I interact with children as an adult, I can see his perspective.
Once, he started driving the van without me all the way in it. Why I didn’t jump in or out, I don’t know. Maybe being around seven it didn’t occur to me. Instead, I hopped down the driveway, one foot in the van and one out and screamed until he stopped. In his defense my sister, who may have been slightly angry at me, had told him I was in the car.
As I follow him down the endless road, my board sticking to the snow in a rather frustrating way, I remember the story of him accidentally hurtling me off a golf cart when I was small. He also let me go sledding straight into a tree, which I vaguely remember the horror of the moment.
I smile a little, as I think of the time he was trying to teach me how to not be scared of the ball when I was playing softball. He threw the ball into high arching curves and I was supposed to catch them. One hit me straight in the forehead. So much for not being scared, that had hurt.
But do any of those things make him a good or bad person? Probably not.
The only thing that I can think of that he ever did that hurt me in ways I can’t quite describe was walking out of a video chat. I’d only been able to call home two times that year, I had an hour. He was trying valiantly to not fight with my sister who was egging him on. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he walked out. That…hurt. It wasn’t my sister’s time to steal. It wasn’t his right to choose being angry at her and not talking to me. But can I blame him? Can I say this makes him a bad person? No. Because he was doing what he thought was right. He was trying.
As I unstrap my snowboard at the bottom and wait for my mother to catch up, I remember other times he tried, and what they’d meant to me.
He brought home a cat, maybe for himself, but I think it was to delight me. I was so little, I barely remember getting the cat. I remember summers trying to chase Cinnamon down, he let me name the cat, and dunking him in water because we deemed him dirty. Poor cat, but great memories.
I remember him showing us ever so patiently how to play to the Wii and how to take care of it when he brought it home as a surprise one day. On the same old T.V. the Wii was connected to, he showed us Night at the Museum for the first time. I remember feeling all grown up because he let us have soda in the downstairs front room, something my mom would have never allowed if she’d been home.
As I wait in line for the Gondola behind my parents, I think of how he bought us snowboard lessons. At the time I was an ungrateful teenager, but now? Now I know he gave me one of my passions in life for Christmas one year.
I remember, in contrast to the video chat, the way he welcomed me home from my church mission. I’d come home sick, and a bit broken because I had to leave something I loved earlier than anticipated, and my father hugged me. He helped me get my life back on a track of sorts. And when that particular track dissipated a bit in the pandemic of 2020, he helped me find mountain biking. He helped me find a purpose each time, even if that purpose was just getting my butt up an even larger mountain next time.
As far as being a good person, I think a point in his favor is being a defense attorney who truly believes in what he does. We all have the need for second chances, and we all deserve the right to be treated fairly. My father has taught me that, so it must be true, right?
Mostly though, I think of how, even in his moments of frustration and doubt, he’s supported us in absolutely everything we’ve done.
As I get on the Gondola for it to take me up the mountain to another run, I wonder does all this make him a good or bad person? I’m not sure. But he’s trying and I think that makes him a good dad. Usually only when we deserved it, My father yelled at us, but let us yell back. He taught me that even our heroes are human. That parents don’t always know the right way to go about things, and yet that doesn’t make them any less, so long as they are trying and he is always trying.