Father’s Day, 2004
“Thanks for being here.”
My father, Martin C. Fredricks III, said this to me many times, usually at family gatherings. Just as often, though, he said it to people he’d just met, at one of my brother’s NDSU football games, for example, even if they had their own child playing. It always seemed an odd thing to say to people with their own reasons for being somewhere.
For years I took Dad’s simple statement for granted, even made fun when he said it to strangers. But since I’ve become a father myself, it’s made a lot more sense.
It’s a huge compliment, really. It’s not saying thanks for being here at this particular time in this particular place, but for being you, for being kind and supportive of people in your life.
This is so typical of my father, a huge man in so many ways. In his prime, at the age I am now, Dad stood 6 feet, 5 inches and weighed around 240 pounds, big by anyone’s standards. As his stature faded, the huge bear hugs remained. Huge feet, huge smile, huge appetite. A huge pride in his children and grandchildren, and a huge heart with endless capacity for joy, love and sharing.
On my first Father’s Day, I was able to publicly return the compliment. On June 16, 2002 – my daughter was born the previous November – The Forum printed my column about how I am turning into my father. I wrote about how Dad’s idiosyncrasies drove me crazy growing up, how so many are now part of my own character, and how I’ve come to appreciate them. More importantly, I wrote about many of the things he’s taught me over the years.
I wasn’t with Dad when he opened the newspaper that day. Mom said he read and re-read the column, cried and read it again. On his way out to buy a dozen papers to share with the family, he said, “I must have done something right.”
For Christmas 2002, I gave Dad a framed layout of the column. He cried again, wrapped me in one of his patented bear hugs and said, “Thanks for being here.”
It was one of the greatest moments of my life.
Last summer my father died of a massive stroke and car accident at the age of
- His grandson, Martin V, was there in my wife’s womb when his namesake passed away.
Dad’s death was a shock, given how he lived. He didn’t drink or smoke, walked 5-10 miles a day, snacked on fruits and vegetables, didn’t stress about much, always seemed to have a huge smile on his face.
In recent years, I often told Dad I loved him. He said the same to me, and that he was proud of me. Fortunately, I do not have the void that afflicts so many men who have lost their fathers, those for whom the words were never spoken.
Dad’s presence remains huge in my life. He’s always with me, and not just because I carry the jackknife he had in his pocket the night he died, or because I wear one of his Navy dog tags around my neck, or because I have the last picture of the two of us on the bookshelf in my office. It’s hard to explain, but I feel him with me every day.
These days, I sometimes beat myself up because I didn’t focus during all the times he showed me how to tie Lindy Rigs or de-bone walleye, and I try to figure it out for myself. Then I let it go, because that’s what Dad would tell me to do.
I tell others to listen to their fathers, hold them tight. Express your love at every opportunity because you might not be able to tomorrow. And I try to live up to what I wrote two years ago, to have Dad’s huge heart and share it, especially with my own children.
There will be always be a hint of sorrow in my Father’s Day celebrations, but I try
to focus on the joy. After all, that’s what Dad was all about. I will carry the warm
memory of him opening that framed column the rest of my life. Thanks to The
Forum for making it happen. And, Dad…
Thanks for being here.