Today was my dad’s birthday. It’s the 9th one without him and I have to say it’s the toughest one yet. In November, it will be ten years since he passed away. Each year brings something different… this year is no exception. What people don’t understand is that the days get easier and you can find true happiness after loss, but deep down it always hurts. Every success has this bittersweet feeling to it because you can’t share it with them.
Why was this year harder than any other year? He would have fucking loved that I’m fully immersed in the Chicago comedy scene. My dad worshiped the comedians that the Second City cranked out. Every time I step foot in that building I miss him. Some days are tougher than others. This year when I had the incredible opportunity to meet Aykroyd and Belushi, it killed me that I couldn’t talk to him about it. He was who introduced these people to me… I grew up watching Coneheads and learned to play harmonica at a young age to compliment the Blues Brothers impression he taught me. My dad was, hands down, the funniest person I’ll ever meet in this lifetime. I feel guilty… like he should be the one on stage. He even had his own set of self-proclaimed “Three Amigos”:
A few months before my dad’s accident, he came and saw me in my first “real” show (that wasn’t held in my living room or elementary school cafeteria). It was a musical review that wrapped up a summer camp I went to in Newtown, CT… I pretty much just smiled, sang and did some choreography in the back all while trying not to pass out or puke. My first “big” show was the last one he would see. At the end of the show, he gave me some flowers with a card that simply said, “I feel like this is the beginning of a great career.”
It wasn’t until this year that those words really sank in. He chose the word career… not hobby, activity or pastime… career.
My dad understood following dreams. When he graduated high school, instead of going to college, he joined a minor league football team and was eventually drafted by the NFL. He worked hard and followed his passion. He paid his dues, took criticism from his coaches, applied corrections and didn’t once apologize for wanting to achieve his dream. So many people told him that he was foolish… but he did it.
Even though I have so many people in Chicago supporting me, I feel like there’s always going to be this void in my life. I was lucky to have parents who cultivated my creativity and allowed me to chase my dreams. I wish so much that my dad was still here to support me in this endeavor. I know that he would have been extremely supportive and excited for what each new milestone brought.
We shared comedy… we both understood it. We both had this insatiable desire to make other people laugh… to allow them to forget about all the bad in this world… all of their troubles and hardship for just a second. We were a duo… he would set me up and I’d go in for the kill. He used that word – career.
It’s hard to admit that I want this to be a career because other people aren’t as supportive. I don’t care in what capacity… I could be performing, directing, teaching or running the PR… shit, if someone offers me a fair wage to mop the floors, I’ll do it. I just want to be able to make a living off of it, to be surrounded by a creative and positive atmosphere. To make a living out of making people happy. A lot of people tell me to be realistic – which I am. I understand it’s tough and it will break your heart and there’s so much competition. I get it. I hear you. I just want someone to tell me what he did… that I’m in the beginning stages of what will be a great career. Someone I could go to and talk about wanting to make a career out of comedy without feeling the need to apologize for it. My dad would have been that person and it kills me that he can’t be.
But alas, if there’s one thing that I learned in the past ten years it’s that there’s nothing I can do about it. He’s never coming back. He’s gone. There’s no use in living in the past. So what do I do? I think of him often. I imagine what he would tell me. I think of the hard work, rejection and perseverance that he saw down his road to the NFL.
My dad was a wonderful man. Everyone loved him… and I mean everyone. He didn’t have enemies and his services were flooded with friends who were heartbroken by his loss. Think of that… no enemies. No one to talk poorly about your character at your services. Are you living a life like that?
While reading The Chris Farley Show, I came across a passage that was so closely related to my father, it took my breath away. I had to reread it over and over again to make sure that I was reading it correctly. I was allowed a brief second to relive the memory of my father. It read:
“There were times, for instance, when Chris and I’d be on the highway, going through a tollbooth. He’d do a bit in front of the tollbooth talker, and it’d make the guy laugh. [Let me note that my dad did the same exact thing at tollbooths] At first you were kinda like, oh, that was a little weird. But on the other hand it was like, you know, he just made that guy’s day. That guy’s gonna go home and tell his wife, ‘Yeah, this big guy came through in a car today and did this thing with the steering wheel…’ One of the cool things about Chris, and one of the noble things about Chris, is that if he made somebody’s day better, he could ease the pain and sadness in the world just a bit, that was why he felt he was here.”
I have big shoes to fill. I’m up for the challenge.