With Father’s Day approaching, it only felt right to type a quick tribute to the man who not only gave me an appreciation for the world and its different cultures but more importantly, to the man I was lucky enough to call my dad for thirty-five years.
Like me, my dad, Jim Voegele, grew up globally (he a military brat, me a business brat), went to college in Idaho, loved to travel, loved history and sincerely enjoyed people of all backgrounds and creeds. Unlike my dad, I was a bit more athletic growing up than he was (dad helped when he could, but he always joked that he spent his formative years as a “third-string-bench-warmer” and credited my mom with all of my athletic ability). While I caught the writing bug at an early age, dad was always a reader and often my editor. He read everything and seemed to always be balancing three to four books at a time, usually with a historical theme attached to each. As the years went on and we were living on separate continents, we could always talk Boise State football, Chicago Cubs baseball, Chicago Bears football, and Chicago Blackhawks hockey. Truth be told, I even tolerated a few of his New York Yankees references, as the Yankees were not only my dad’s childhood team but Grandpa Voegele’s as well. Our music taste differed also, but I still can’t hear a Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson song without smiling and picturing dad humming and singing along to the radio. Politics was always an interesting topic of discussion, as I never truly knew where my dad stood on certain things, but not for the lack of me asking. He challenged me on every debate we ever got into, but looking back now, I think it was because he wanted me to form my own opinions and not simply follow his ideals politically. I do know he believed every person alive should be respected and heard, no matter how far left or right they viewed the world. He handled government officials, business executives and everyday people with dignity and reverence alike and taught his sons to do the same. If there was a side to my dad that I prized the most, it was how he treated people.
While many knew him as the “Fry Guy” because of his business connections to McDonald’s, my dad was so much more than his work. He had a dry sense of humor (which I believe I inherited) and rocked a mustache that gave Tom Selleck a solid run for his money (something I did not inherit). He took chances, spent more time on airplanes than many commercial pilots, was smart, was mysterious, was a patriot (he represented the best of American values while living abroad for over thirty years) and was always loyal to his friends and business partners alike. Dad was also a surrogate father to my friends (he loved to give my buddies crap, but was the first to speak highly of them in public too), a people watcher, a foster dad (my parents often took in orphaned infants and toddlers while they lived overseas), an entrepreneur, and was totally unpretentious. For a man who had a few reasons to feel sorry for himself, I never saw or heard him complain about anything. Ever. Even after a life-changing injury in his twenties, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and pressed on. I always admired his strength in making the best of any situation. He believed in people and in giving second chances, as he himself had been given his fair share. Ironically, for all of his international travels, business dealings, and global awards, he was a very simple guy. At the end of the day, he loved his wife, took care of his family and worked hard. He always told me that nothing very good or very bad lasts very long. Now in my 40’s, I’m finally beginning to understand those words, now more than ever.
As a young boy, I always thought of my dad as ten feet tall and bulletproof, and in a lot of ways he was. But dad was also human. Like most men, especially those of a certain generation, he would be the first to give a stranger the shirt off of his back but had a hard time asking others for help. That’s the part of his death that still gets to me eight years later. Without getting into too much detail, as a family, we didn’t know he was as sick as he was. Always the protector, I’m guessing he didn’t say anything to us because he didn’t want us to worry or fuss about him. At the time his health took a turn, my mom was recovering from her own illness and my brother and I were simply doing our own thing, which is how dad would have wanted it. In hindsight, I don’t know if there would have been anything that could have been done to help him, even if we did know. But the way he went was so hard to watch, especially for such a strong man who was so passionate about life. I remember the last conversation I ever had with him having to do with trying to communicate on Skype. Being so far away physically, dad was all giddy with the notion of being able to not only talk to me but see me at the same time. Regrettably, technology wasn’t my dad’s forte and he couldn’t stay connected from his end in Singapore. After a few tries, we finally decided to simply use the phone and speak old school style. I do take comfort in knowing that while our last chat was brief and comical, dad told me he loved me, I said the same, and that was that. He went into a coma a few days later and never came out of it. That last phone call taught me the importance of saying how you feel to people while you still can, as life is too short to leave words unsaid.
My dad’s passing made me (and my brother) a member of a club that I never planned on being a part of so young. Sadly, these days it seems that the majority of my close friends are members of the same club, as many have lost their dads over the last few years. My story is their story. The details may be different, but if you’ve lost a parent, you know the pain and confusion that goes along with it. No matter our ages now, to some extent, we’ll all always be little boys still looking for our dad’s guidance and approval. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my dad and miss him tremendously. I’d love to pick his brain regarding the state of the world right now, but even more so, I’d give anything for one last deep conversation on life in general. He always had a way with words and could calm any situation. While he’s missed a lot of my adult milestones, specifically me living overseas again and my wedding, I’ve always felt him with me. The older I get, the more I catch myself doing the same things he did and I’m totally fine with that. I really believe that my dad wanted to still be here and even in a coma, he fought like hell to do so. Dad came across as such a tough guy from the outside, but truth be told, he was a softy on the inside. My uncle once summed up my dad as someone who didn’t say a whole lot nor needed to be the center of attention, but when he did speak, everyone stopped to listen. I couldn’t agree more.
Happy Father’s Day, Pop. Thank you for this life and your credos, as they haven’t been forgotten and neither have you. You are loved and missed every day.
Give a listen below to “Heal”!