When my Mom turned 50 last October I decided to write a blog about her and her impact on my life (check out that post here).

For my Dad’s 50th birthday (which is today, May 14) I wanted to do the same.  Now, when i set out to write the post for Mom, it was simple.  Our relationship was easy to characterize and describe, so the post pretty much wrote itself.  My mom has always supported me and we have always gotten along beautifully and things have always been “rosy”.  The relationship between my father and I has always been very different, mainly I think because we are so much alike.  So since October, (roughly 6 months ago) I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post… let’s see how I do.

Dad and I lighting up a couple cigars after my gradation from Florida Gulf Coast University

I have many memories from various times throughout my life of doing puzzles with my father.  I was always interested in seeing how he went about putting the puzzle together, it is always precise and systematic.  Separate out the border, put that together.  Group together pieces of the same color and begin to assemble the smaller components of the puzzle within the border (landmark aspects of the photo such as the sky, a flower, or a boat).  I always wondered how he came to  do this in such a structured manner.

I have never doubted the fact that my Dad loves me, and I hope that he has never doubted that I love him.  With that said, we have never really expressed it to each other, it’s as if the fact that we cared for each other was implicit in our relationship.  I am the oldest of two sons, and being the oldest I have always tried to meet the expectations that my father had for me.  I always had to get the best grades, and when it came to baseball (which I played front he age of 6 until 18) failure was not an option.  Dad and I had many “spirited talks” after games where I didn’t perform well.  I never took constructive criticism well from him, and he never shied away from handing it out.  This led to many disagreements, which i always lost because I was the young son.  I think that these moments strained our relationship to a great degree, and for a long time kept us a certain distance apart.

Adding to that last point, I always took the disagreements between my father and I at face value, and at the time didn’t have the capacity to really think of it on a deeper level.  My Dad was a police officer for nearly 26 years, the last 10 or so of which was spent in homicide.  As a kid, I never considered the impact that a person’s career has on other aspects of their life.  There came a time when I realized: My Dad investigated murders for a living, and it affected the rest of his life.  He dealt with the scum of the earth on a daily basis, and spent his days chasing after people who had KILLED another human being.  He was damn good at it too.  You didn’t want to be a murderer in Broward County when my pops was on the case.  However, when I think back, it makes more sense now.  The days where he would come home and be stressed, or would get upset at things that seemed odd (like the time it was 6:30, and we hadn’t had dinner, and eating after 6:30 was BAD… for that day at least).  The emotional baggage that he must have carried while he was a detective is something that I will never know, and I don’t know if I could have dealt with it like he did.  After realizing what he was juggling in his life: chasing after murderers by day, being a father to two boys by night… it’s understandable that stress from one would leak into the other.  In all honesty, I don’t think anyone in the world could have handled it better than he did, and I have a huge amount of respect for him just based on the fact the he made it work.  Most boys who are fortunate enough to grow up with a father idolize them to the point where they don’t look at them as humans.  They are “Superdad” and can do no wrong and can’t be hurt or affected by anything.  This simply isn’t true, my Dad is a human, and he is susceptible to stress and bad days … especially when you consider the job that he had.  I understand that now.

Now that my Dad is retired, I can see the relief in him.  I can see the change in his overall demeanor, he has better body language and just seems happier than when he was working.  I love seeing him like this, he seems to be enjoying life more than he did before.  He does things around the house, runs around town all day doing random things, goes hunting, and… as always… still does puzzles.  We get along better than we ever have, and have really opened up to each other a lot more than we did previously.  Our relationship has grown a great deal in the last few years, and I’m excited for it to continue to grow and evolve as I get older.

My Dad has had a profound impact on so many aspects of my life, probably mores than he realizes.  Even the negative things have turned around and had positive impacts.

he four of us… Pops always calls us his “Crew”.

I try now to embrace criticism, and build from it, instead of opposing because I’m too stubborn (I’m still quite stubborn though).

My Dad is a social butterfly, has many friends, and countless people who love him.  I attribute watching him as one of the main reasons why I am how I am today.  I used to be shy and kept to myself.  I have grown to become just like Dad, a total social butterfly who will talk to anyone and, more importantly, treats people with respect.  I look at how he treats my Mom, and how much he cares for her.  If I ever decide to go down the road of marriage (a big IF), I will undoubtedly take a page out of his book there as well.

om and Dad

My Dad, more-so than anyone else, has inspired me to stop at nothing to do my best.  I never understood before why he was always on me to to better, but now it makes sense.  I set high hopes for myself, and absolutely refuse to accept anything less.  This is a direct result of Dad always pushing me to be better, maximizing my potential.

Being in research, I analyze things every day.  Situations, data, experiments… I have to look at it and determine the best way to approach it in order to solve my problem in the proper and most efficient way.  Watching Dad operate, putting the puzzle together, helped me learn how to analyze a situation.  Break it into it’s smaller components and attack it section by section.  Systematic, efficient, and complete.  I learned this at a young age, from Dad.  Anytime I struggle with my work, I can close my eyes and imagine myself sitting at the table watching Dad do a puzzle.  Everything makes sense after that.

My Dad is an amazing man, and without realizing it I have become just like him in many ways.  I couldn’t be happier about it.  He’s provided me with the tools I needed to get where I am at now, all by being just being around him.  He serves as the example that I have always needed, an example of how to get things done, and get them done properly. If, when I turn 50, I have had the kind of career success, a family who loves me, and the amount of friends who would do anything for me that my father has… I’ll consider myself a lucky dude.  He has shaped me into the man I am today, and even though we don’t always see eye to eye, he has no idea how much I model myself in his image.  I understand him now more than I ever did before and as a result… I respect him so much more.

It kills me that I can’t be at home to celebrate his 50th birthday with him.  I hope he knows how much I love him, and hope that he has an amazing day!  I look forward to September, when i get to come home and we can light up a cigar, watch a football game…. and maybe do a puzzle.  I will always consider myself fortunate to be part of my Dad’s “Crew”.


Thanks for reading!
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Follow me on Twitter: @sharkynichol

About mdnichol87

Marine Biologist studying towards a Master's in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter.
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1 Response to Dad

  1. Cindy valverde says:

    Matt…. Once again you are an amazing
    Blogger!! Beautiful what you wrote.
    Be safe, continue to study, have fun and
    we will see you when you get home! Xoxo

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