Dear Dad…

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“Alright kid, you can’t make calls all night. Find someone to come get you or you’re here for the night.”

I looked at the receiver in my one hand and then over at the buttons attached to the base, hanging from the wall. I was scared. 

For good reason, too. I had a lot to be afraid of at the time. But in that moment, I wasn’t afraid of any of the things that would screw up (I’m trying not to swear because I know you don’t like it) my life for the next 10 years. I was afraid of calling you…

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Let’s not get too far ahead…

Dad, remember the first deer I took down?

Probably not… because you’ve done that first hunt, four times now… But, I’ll never forget it. We were up in the Crick Stand that morning, where I got my first shot. I missed. I had no chance. I didn’t know I could feel that nervous. But, you went and checked for blood anyway. I was the opposite of discouraged though. After shooting once, you didn’t have to convince me to go and sit again later that night. I was jacked up.

Safely in Uncle Mark’s Meadow Stand (where all deer go to die), I got my second chance. This time, I didn’t squander it, and the look on your face when I came out from behind the scope… is pierced into my brain forever. A few high fives and some pictures later, your pride was palpable. And thus, so was mine.

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There were the not-so-good times….

Like when you caught me sneaking out in high school… I thought (and mom did too for a moment, I think) that there was going to be a homicide in our front yard. I gladly took the full-summer grounding, instead. 

Or, the time in Middle School, where I was supposed to be at the movies, deciding instead to roam the streets of Little Falls. Nobody’s called me the brightest bulb in the box but, come on… You were a cop and working that night. Did I think you wouldn’t catch me?

Then there was the senior prank… and the time I threw a chair through my upstairs window… I’ll just stop now.

I hated you so much sometimes, growing up. But, I really didn’t. And, I knew it because every time I actually let myself think about what had happened, you always came out in the right. I hated that too. I still do.

What I don’t hate, is how much of my life I’ve gotten to enjoy with and because of you.

We’ve laughed and we’ve cried through everything. There was traveling sports as a kid, and traveling for your softball tournaments… and my realization of being small in size and average in athletic ability, once in high school (tough times), to the hunting hunting trips in North Dakota… and all of the deer hunting shack seasons in-between… you’ve been there to teach me and lead me through it all. 

And what about the crazy Minnesota sports fan you’ve made me….? That part of me is definitely on you. We’ve copped and schemed Minnesota teams to championships in our head so many times that the fictitious rings are hard to count. From ’98 to ’00 to ’09, and then again in ’17, we’ve lived the Vikings’ collapses together and the minimal Wild, Wolves, and Twins’ runs in between.

And now, that fandom is leading to so much more. Because of what you and mom have made me. 

Dad, I’m the luckiest fucking person (sorry, I said I wouldn’t swear) on this planet. Not every family has a rock that they can go to and lean on WHENEVER they need to. Just like the night of my DUI, which might be my most vivid memory of all…

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*RIIIIIING RIIII—

“Hello, this is Chuck.”

There it was… I had literally called everyone else that made any sense and I had been at the St. Cloud PD for what felt like 8 hours (it was probably more like 2-3). I didn’t want to face you. I had let you and mom down. Countless times, you guys told me not to drink and drive but I was young and dumb. Life didn’t have consequences…. until it did. 

But, most of my friends in the area were out with me that night and in no condition to be bailing me out of jail and the ones who weren’t didn’t answer the phone. I always had that fallback option with you and mom… I just didn’t want to use that lifeline until forced to…. and there I was:

“Dad…”

I didn’t even have to finish. It’s 2010 at this point, not 1995. I was calling on your cell phone so you saw it was coming from the Stearns County Jail. It was a short conversation.

YOU: “Are you ok?”

ME: “Yeah.”

YOU: “DUI?”

Me: “Yeah.”

YOU: “I’m on my way. I’ll bring your brother.”

I was low, Dad. Really low, when you picked me up that morning. You could have made it so much worse had you done what I expected… But you didn’t. Instead of yelling at me, I’ll never forget what you said…

“The law is about to fuck you. You don’t need me yelling too… But hey, you’ll make it through this. You don’t have a choice.”

You were right. And, I deserved what I got from the law. Like you said, I did make it through, but I had to work at it. I learned so much that night but I used those words A LOT over the next couple of months, while I got my life back in order.

Hell, I still use these words.

“Eric, you’ll make it through this. You don’t have a choice.”

I know I will, Dad. Thanks.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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