On My Dad Mike, A Life

This has been, for my family and me, a tough day, one week before Father’s Day no less. The man who had been my father for 20+ years, Michael David Smith, has succumbed to cancer.

It’s funny, he had been a part of my life for so long that I’m a little fuzzy on when our first encounter occurred. 1995? 1996? I’m inclined to say the latter, because it was Fall and the beginning of football season, and the Panthers had already existed for a year. Mike, a child of the 60s long before North Carolina had a professional football team, was a Dallas Cowboys fan. I never missed a chance to give him grief over this, often saying “I will create a law that says you must pull for the team in your local area.” He sometimes quipped “then I guess we’ll be moving to Dallas.” (I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I had been a closet Cowboys fan before my beloved Cats took the field.

Anyhow, whenever Mike and I first met we immediately bonded. As I’ve written in my post about complex thoughts on fatherhood, I would often linger on the floor as his Atlanta Braves (MLB) played on the tv, and we would talk about anything and nothing for hours. Sometimes while watching basketball, he would tell me to stand up so that he could demonstrate a great play that had just occurred, often to comical and almost dangerous effect.

He would usually ask me to join him for grocery store runs during which he’d impart advice about finding and being with a good woman, at the end of which he would get me either my favorite candy or a can of Pringles, to which I was insanely addicted in those days. Then there were the innumerable Jeopardy shows and our friendly competitions, usually he was far better at pop culture and I knew my geography.

Not only did he embrace me wholeheartedly, but he took my cousins under his wing with ease and clear enjoyment. We had a stretch there from about 1997 to 2001 where our singing group, Off Da Top, fancied itself celebrities and performed in several talent shows. Along with my youngest sister, Mike would work with us on choreography and talk to us about his knowledge of the music business. He called himself our manager, and said we should change our group’s name to the Backseat Boys (long story for that name’s conception which you can read in an old Writing 101 post, but if we’d chosen it can you say lawsuit?)

I revel in these memories, and if anything I regret not having taken the time to make more of them. I hadn’t seen him too often, which is true of the rest of my family as well, in the last ten years. I hope that the rest of us can now start to rectify this, and am eternally grateful for my birthday dinner with him, my mom, and my in-laws that my wife organized, as it was the last time I saw him healthy. I remember the shock and sadness I felt when seeing him in the hospital bed this past November, as this last cruel journey began. I was overcome with depression, but I also prayed and hoped for the best. But as they say, death is a part of life and at some point we must all confront our mortality and that of those whom we love deeply.

To you, Mike: Thanks for letting me be your son and for your unconditional acceptance of me, even with the unusual package I present. I will always be grateful for your coaching and guiding me through my formative years and helping me to learn to be a good man to my wife and, I hope, a good human period. May you rest in peace.

14 Responses to On My Dad Mike, A Life

  1. John,
    I was saddened when reading your post about your Dad’s passing. Cancer is a terrible illness and often leaves painful memories that one must cope with. We shall keep you and your family in our prayers. I am thankful for your happy memories and wonderful experiences with Mike, your Dad. Your post is so heartfelt, and evident of your love for him and that he was a very special man.
    May God provide you and your family peace and grace in the coming weeks.

  2. John, I am so glad to read these words about my childhood friend, Mike Smith. Mike and his family of 2 sisters and 2 other brothers moved to W NY Ave Ext when I was in elementary school. I was glad to see other boys on the block. I lived on the road behind their house. Scott K and myself were the only boys before that and I was an only boy living with 3 sisters.

    The Smith boys were a godsend. Mike was a year ahead of me. He was a natural speedster. I hung out with his younger brother Moses. However, Mike and I were geeks. We started sharing comic books and then decided to share ours and start a collection. We got together a catalogued what we found. We even had the 1st Luke Cage issue and kept that up. Mike was a good man. He did not party like the rest of us when we got older. Nonetheless, he was still cool with all of us.

    On that block we played year round sports: football on the road, baseball on the road, basketball at the gym or in the back yard. Having gone to college and not visited home that often, I did not see Mike as much but we connected when I would come to town sometimes. His personality had not changed. He would say, “Hey Curt”, with a higher inflection at the end. Hey Curt, what you know about this new [comic book hero]”. I can hear him now. He was full of jokes and corny ones too.

    I am glad to hear about your relationship with my friend, Mike. I am not surprised at anything you said about him and joyous that he spread his love with so many people.

    We are all blessed to have known Mike. I am dad to lose a friend. And really sad that I can’t come to town and grieve properly.

    Take care and remember your ancestors are still with you. Mike is still with you.

    Curtis Jackson, one of the boys from the block
    Moses, Mitchell, Donald, Scott, Vincent

    • Hello, thanks for reading. I can definitely see him doing all these things. I forgot to talk about his crazy jokes and that one-of-a-kind laugh.

    • I am, will possibly post today. With the virus and my father’s passing, I as set back at the end of June. Not that I have the virus, just getting worn down by its constant presence. I hope you are well, and really appreciate your checking in.

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