I sit in anguish, trying to force words that relatively mimic hope for the future and acceptance of the past, and very little writing is being accomplished because I can't seem to muster the energy. My puppy dog, Murphy, sits behind me, sucking on the crest of soft skin between his back knee and hip, and I'm slowly being driven mad by the lack of volume elsewhere to drown out the overall disgusting way he cleans his body, as all dogs do. It's an interim sound between slurping-soda-from-a-broken-straw and cleaning-up-a-runny-ice-cream-cone-with-your-tongue.
My blood veins pulse at the bottom of my ass. A TV distantly roars, muffled through a closed door and several paintings of flowers in the hallway. A Wu-Tang Clan hat rests on my desk light because it's black and is soaking up some of the fluorescence, which seems to radiate an unearthly brightness. I need to get a proper writing chair.
It's been so long since I used my blog site, the analytics machine hasn't counted any interaction with the site, and that function has now erased last year's numbers. I suppose, maybe writing daily is an answer to losing my numbers? The numbers don't really tell me much, and I'm often left playing the guessing game as to how many people will have made it through the intro above, and how many checked out after I tried describing how my dog sounds when he cleans his near-nuts.
Someone has, at this moment, uttered "Dear Diary" and rolled their eyes. Or, they don't like that I talk about dog's balls so freely. Looking back (he said it!), I'm sure I could have written the intro differently. And that, my friends, is why we're here today. On March 11th, 1942, the greatest man I ever knew was born. James A. Nichols, Jr. was born to Clara and James A. Nichols, Sr. A tall, dark, and handsome man, James was a behemoth, a gentleman, one hell of a storyteller, and damn near almost a professional football player. James Nichols is, of course, my father. He would have turned 77 today. On November 5th, 2010, my father passed away. "Remember, remember, the fifth of November", but today, we remember the first day my dad saw the world, and how he saw it so many times after.
I was talking with my mom the other day and a newly formed recognition hit me. For many years, I'd pined over how my father never got to live out his dream of building the first hyper-lifted pickup truck, the business partnerships that failed him and left him in debt with no business, and when my father nearly became a professional football player, had the business not closed down on a Sunday and my father learning on Monday when he went to pick up his check.
I often think about how my dad missed opportunities in his life. But, did he? Sure, he looked back fondly and "missed" the chance, but he never really spoke about how difficult it must have been to be two years ahead of a cultural phenomenon (Bigfoot, the truck), or how he'd played football and was drafted to play for a professional team in Little Rock, only to be faced with the sudden loss of that job and notoriety. He didn't seem to mind not buying a 1968 Ford Cobra 428 over the '69 Galazie XL and Chris-Craft boat he ended up with, and for cheaper than the Cobra. "It didn't have air or power steering", he'd say of the Cobra, when I prodded.
While my dad lived in the past sometimes, haven't we all? We've surely thought "what if", in regard to opportunities missed. I have, for sure. In 2003, my boss Jon bought me a pair of cleats so I could try out for a semi-pro arena football team in Little Rock. I went to the tryout and ran just over 5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which I was told was pretty good for a guy my size, and then I walked over to the bleachers and vomited in the gutter! Once I caught my breath, it was onto the bench press. I had to do 3 reps of 185lbs. in order to be considered for the team. I got halfway up on the first rep and dropped the bar on my chest.
The head coach was standing over me and quietly remarked, "it's not a problem if you can't lift the weight," reassuring me that, "if you want to be on the team, we'll get you into shape." When I left that tryout, I never looked back. Fear was a big factor in the life I had when I was younger. I was too embarrassed to be my height and weight and not be able to bench 185lbs. Only two years earlier, I'd been benching 400bs. regularly, so in my mind, I was worthless. It was foolish to feel that way. An opportunity had been missed because I was embarrassed.
My dad was reassuring to me that football was hard on my body, and that any decision I made, he would back. I don't remember much else from this memory, other than the lingering regret I'd had over the years, including now. If the Arkansas Diamonds, a professional football team based in Little Rock, hadn't folded under the gaining massive popularity of the NFL, maybe my dad would've become the Junior Seau of the Continental Football League?
Maybe, if my dad's business partners hadn't cut out with all of the fabricating equipment and left him with the bills and an empty warehouse, he might have become a larger-than-life character in motorsports entertainment, beating Bigfoot to the crown before Bigfoot had even bolted on a wheel? Who knows, but my dad never let his regrets outweigh his love for his family. After all, if my dad had become a super celebrity in football or motorsports, my my sister and myself would've never been born.
If the CFL hadn't shuddered its doors and my dad continued to play and gain fame (he'd already amassed a fanbase that called him the "Gold Toe" for his kicking skills), he would likely have never began working for Baptist Hospital, never met nurse (and his future wife) Reba Bennett, and they'd have never had children, this article wouldn't exist. My dad never regretted anything in front of me. He never led me to believe he held any regret for not making it. My dad showed me how happy he was to have had the opportunity to play at a professional level, and to have been ahead of the curb in motorsport.
My dad had an amazing countenance about him. I very rarely, if only a few times, saw him look back. The first time it really hurt was the day before he passed away. He an my brother picked me up from the airport after a long trip, and Father didn't seem to want to be part of the conversation. He remarked he wanted to take pictures of the Arkansas hills, so he wouldn't forget them. It hurt, and I believe I'll always wonder if my dad knew he was approaching death that day. The moment felt like he was checking all the boxes in his life, getting ready to leave. And then, seventeen hours later, he did.
I suppose, if I spend the rest of my life looking back at the day I yacked up lunch and felt insecure about my inability to bench press the weights, I'll be miserable. So, as I move on from my past daily, I encourage anyone who's managed to get this far into my writing to do the same. We're all the better for moving forward, looking back when it really counts, and being blessed to have had the experiences and opportunities to be something we ultimately didn't become.