Remembering My Dad 20 Years Later

I’d like to tell you about my dad.

Young dad
My dad with his parents in the early 1960s

He was born in 1951 as the son of two chiropractors in Big Rapids, MI. He had an awesome childhood traveling the country with his parents, and was especially close to his maternal grandparents in Reed City, MI. He played in his high school band, and was a life-long drummer. I’ve been told he wasn’t much of a music reader, but he could play pretty much anything by ear. Sadly, I didn’t inherit this gift. Leaving the family chiropractic business behind, he decided to focus on music.

He was also a big Michigan fan. I like to think the GV Lakers would be his favorite DII Football team!

After attending broadcasting school in Wisconsin, he moved back to Michigan where he worked for various radio stations over the years, adopting the radio nickname “Doc”… because he was the Doctor of Rock-N-Roll. Today I’m impressed that my dad was making dad jokes long before I came into the picture. There were even Rock with Doc t-shirts made up for promo giveaways at the time, but sadly I haven’t been able to track one down.

With his best friend Dexter during broadcasting school.

He met my mom when she called into his radio show to request a song in the early 1980s. He thought she sounded nice and wanted to meet her, and the rest is history…

Mom, dad and I with the hair band Nelson after a concert.

This Sunday marks 20 years since my dad, Zane, passed away. While it’s always a bittersweet time of year – remembering all the amazing things about him, while feeling sadness about all the things we’ve missed without him too – I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that something about this milestone feels especially important. I’m a writer and an external processor, and normally these are the kind of thoughts I’d prefer to keep private. However, I think its important to keep his memory alive.

I keep thinking about how so much has changed in the last 20 years. When my dad was alive, the only Kardashian he’d likely ever heard of was the one who helped acquit OJ Simpson. The internet was in its infancy, and he never even had his own personal email account. He was a long-time DJ and radio personality with a giant collection of records and CDs. He’d have been amazed with the rise and fall of Napster, the digital media revolution helped by iTunes and the iPod, and the ability to have any song at his fingertips through Apple Music or Spotify. Smart phones, Facebook, WiFi, Uber, etc. would probably blow his mind.

I took a picture of this picture (me and my dad, his grandma, and his mom) with my iPhone and used auto-sync with Dropbox to upload this to the cloud so I could edit it on my desktop and upload it to my blog. That’s a sentence 1997 wasn’t ready for.

When I think about the last two decades, there have been so many watershed moments in the world. Princess Diana’s death happened just a month before his. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were only four short year later, spawning the wars and the captures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. We elected our first African American president in 2008, and saw a woman take the first ever major party nomination for President in 2016. Harry Potter books hadn’t yet reached the US by September of 1997, and the only reality TV show anyone had ever paid much attention to was The Real World. I even remember being with my dad at the movie theater and seeing a giant Titanic poster, and he said he was excited to see it later around the holidays…

I could spend the rest of my life being bummed out about the things he did and didn’t get to see, do, experience, and feel. However, what I’ve been feeling most lately is gratitude.

I keep this in my safe at home. It’s one of the last pictures we took – in a mall photo booth while on vacation in August 1997.

I’m grateful for the moments of time that I had with my dad. I’m grateful for all the times he’d come home from work late to greet me with his signature “Hey buuuuddy!”. I’m grateful for the fun moments we had playing on the carpet as he “attacked me” with THE CLAW (pre-Liar Liar). I’m especially grateful that he and my mom built an amazing childhood for me, and that even though times were especially tough as his health deteriorated, I never saw him as anything but my dad. It always brings a smile to my face to think that he was home to greet me after school for my first few weeks of 4th Grade. He’d make me a snack, and we’d sit on the couch together watching that campy old Batman TV show from the 1960s. He loved it, so I did too.

Fun fact: my favorite soda is Squirt. Super weird. Half my friends have never heard of it or tried it. It’s my favorite. It was my dad’s favorite, too.

There’s lots of other things I’d like to think I learned from my dad. By all accounts, he was a wonderful and fantastic friend. His close friend group has all stayed in touch with my mom and I over the years, and they’ve become great friends of mine in adulthood as well. He treated my mom and his mother and grandmother with love respect, and helped to instill those same values in me toward women and family. If you’ve ever had a sarcastic interaction with me and wondered where I got my sense of humor, I’m told you can thank him for that too. I’m forever grateful that I’ve learned to become a good friend, a good man, and have a good laugh thanks in large part to his influence.

My shirt says “NOT THE MAMA” – apparently I was a big Dinosaurs fan :)

So, am I going to spend my life dwelling on what could have been with our father/son relationship? Perhaps. But, I think that’s natural. Sometimes it just stings when out of the blue I hear someone talking to their dad on their cell phone, or sending texts back and forth with him. I get a stranger feeling when I hear some people say they don’t talk to their dad for whatever reason, although I understand that lots of people have lots of complicated relationships with their parents. Selfishly, I wish for the ability to have even a complicated relationship with my dad today.

One person I don’t have a complicated relationship with is my mom. She’s one of those people you meet and immediately fall in love with. As a kid, I remember kids asking if they could come play and whether or not my mom was home and if she was going to play too. I could write pages and pages about how selfless, caring, loving, funny, smart, and dedicated she is. I’ll spare you (and her) that by just emphasizing how lucky I am to have her.

You see, she never envisioned that she’d lose the love of her life at only 35 years old, being left to raise a young son on her own. I lost my dad, and she lost her “person”. That’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and she handled it with grace, dignity, and courage. We’ve built such a special bond over the years, and I’m grateful for every moment we share and memory we make. My mom is incredible.

Manistee August 2017
Mom and I in Manistee last month at our family’s “secret spot”

My dad is incredible too. As the 20-year mark of his passing nears, I still miss him every single day. My fingers are trembling at the keyboard as recall and cherish the memories we made, the laughs we shared, and the love we had while he was with us. This weekend, I’ll be spending time with my mom continuing to make more memories, and share more laughter and love. I hope that if you’re able, you can take a chance to call your mom, dad, or another close family member and just let them know how much they mean to you.

Thanks for taking a moment to read a bit about my dad and the lasting impact he’s made on me. I am honored to have the privilege and responsibility of keeping his memory and legacy alive for years to come.