John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XXXVIII: My Dad

(Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, he dedicates this column to his dad.


I stepped out for a smoke at my dad’s place in Boise around dusk. We had cleaned the chicken coop together the last time I was down here, and I wanted to see how it was holding up. My dad’s wife Julie takes in rescue chickens and has three hens and two roosters.

If you have chickens, you have to have a certain amount of acceptance of how life works, or you are going to be sad a whole bunch. Coyotes, foxes, eagles, and hawks have taken their toll on the flock. I stuck my head in the coop and the birds were all calmly lined up on a high shelf.

Gazing at one of the roosters, it appeared to me there was some kind of grand intelligence there that might be interesting to study over time. I can see myself retiring as a gentleman farmer with a bunch of barnyard animals. Some of you who know me might wonder what exactly career it is I think I would be retiring from, and that is fair enough.

My dad and Julie also have three ducks. Their two white ducks were joined by a mallard hen a little while back. They were squawking around by the back door of the house. My dad came out and herded them into the chicken coop with a stick. He said if he didn’t use a stick, they would run all over the place without making it to the coop; but they moved quickly inside like that stick was some kind of wizard wand.

My dad had heart valve replacement surgery this year and is down to 215 pounds from around what I weigh now, 270 or so. He says he misses the weight, but what he really misses is the strength. Aging is an adjustment and you need some of that life acceptance stuff if you are going to age with some grace. My dad has been a big strong guy all his life and to not be able to bend over and big up a twenty-pound sack of groceries I imagine hurts his pride some.


Aging is an adjustment and you need some of that life acceptance stuff if you are going to age with some grace.


My dad has been attending church for about a decade and word was he was going to say a prayer before dinner, and it was hinted we may be in for some Holy Rolling. My brother and his two young adult kids were also in attendance. The prayer was humble, grateful, and short and it touched me more than I thought it would to hear my dad talking like that.

Julie periodically sends me pictures of my dad that show him at different points in his life. I was, in turn, sharing some of these with him using my phone. There is one of him looking tough as nails in a cowboy hat with a cigar in his hand. He denied it was him in the picture which made us laugh. That was from back when he was drinking and a semi-legend as a bar fighter. I found it interesting that he did not think those were his glory days, so to speak.

My dad helped raise Julie’s son from childhood. I remember twenty or thirty years ago him saying that his stepson Brent may have been lucky to have him around, while my brother had him in our lives at the wrong time. I’m sure most parents have regrets about how they raised their kids whether they express them or not. The same would be true of my mom, I suppose. I am also sure they want forgiveness as well. It has taken me a while, but I have worked through my resentments and am in a loving spot with both of my parents.

When we were getting ready to leave, my dad said, “I wish I could see you guys more often,” and looked in my direction.

I said, “I do, too, Dad.”

This appeared to touch him a little because I meant it and he could tell I did. Then I gave him a hug and told him I loved him.

He said, “Alright, alright, alright,” like a guy that was uncomfortable with that kind of talk.

That’s my dad.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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