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Gifts my parents left behind

Chairman of the Boards

Posted: October 9, 2008 8:17 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
It was 1975. A yellow Chevy Vega packed to the fine vinyl trim with a rowdy assortment of skateboards and 11-year-old skate rats. The nearest skate park was a good 45 minutes away — mom didn’t mind. One problem, we were getting pulled over by a motorcycle patrolman. As the officer approached the car he mentioned he had been following our car for some time. My mom said, over her shoulder to the throng of skate stoked kids, “Why didn’t somebody tell me about the police officer?” From the very back of the car, actually the trunk area, John Flynt, a small but energetic and fearless skater, replied, “He’s been following us for the last five minutes, you just didn’t ask.” With that, the car broke into laughter, including mom!

What a time. No worries, skating, and surfing with friends. Little did I know, even then I was learning, observing lessons I would later use in my life, much later. Sometimes I daydream that I am standing face to face with mom again. I look her in the eyes and tell her once more how much I love her and thank her for all she did. I would hold those familiar hands that often tickled me when I was sick or could not get to sleep. As the scene fades, it makes me ponder the traits I inherited from my mom and my dad.

It is a strange and sometimes frighteningly lonely void when both parents have passed. It is with great shock that I realize I am the parent now. As a parent, I am often pressed into service seemingly going on autopilot, or worse yet, flying by the seat of my pants. It is in this crunch time of crucial decisions I have discovered, like hidden jewels, the many gifts my mom has left behind for me. I am then reminded of the paths my father had laid out for me, the ones to follow and the ones to avoid.

Bigger than life
My dad was an old school man’s man. “Big Jim Christiansen,” three- time world spearfishing champion, bigger than life. He would love to tell his rapt court of spear fishing newbie’s “I blew more water through my snorkel then you ever swam in.” It never failed to get laughs.  However, I was not laughing. He was never “Big Jim” to me and sometimes, it seemed, not even my dad. But, he loved the sea with all his heart and soul. My most prized times were being with him in his element, the ocean. So, it was troubling to see his long decent into alcoholism and then watch as lung cancer took over a once strong and bigger-than-life man. It was during his cancer that God began to reconcile us. I was visiting my dad one afternoon when I was asked to give him a shave. I will never forget the transference that occurred that afternoon as I lathered his gaunt face and carefully drew the blade across has cheeks. It was then I had a stark realization that the roles were switched. I was taking care of my dad.

My mom planted in me selflessness in parenting and opened up the world of creativity. This I pass on daily to my children and I make my living off of creativity. My dad gave me the ocean and all of its power and glory. He also gave me a lesson in what not to do as a father and for that I am very grateful also. I have forgiven my dad and as time passes I am given the gift of reconciliation with my dad. Each year, more good memories and lessons from my dads’ strong character come to me. Often, I wish he were alive again so I could look into his eyes with this new found adoration.

Alas, it is a wonderful gift that every time I go out in the surf with my two boys he is alive again and I take pride in passing on his love of the ocean to my sons.

I have realized something, now that my earthly father and mother are gone, it is imperative I let my real Father guide me. Late the other night, I walked by my 6-year-old daughters’ door “Daddy I want you to tickle my back,” she said. I turned thinking I have so much to do, and then God whispered gently in my ear, “time flies… do not walk away from precious moments.” Sitting in the dark, hearing my daughters breathing change as she fell asleep, I saw my mom sitting on the side of my bed… I now understand.

Eric Christiansen lives in Santa Clarita with his wife and three kids where he directs and edits commercials and documentaries. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of the The Signal.


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