When I was in third grade, my friend told me that cracking my knuckles would give me arthritis.
I had no clue what arthritis was, except for the fact that it sounded scary and was probably something that I didn’t want.
Then I was scared. I had often watched my father leisurely crack his knuckles, and was suddenly terrified that he would get arthritis.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell my father to quit his habit before arthritis took over his whole body and all hell broke loose? I decided against it. My friend was probably just making something up on the playground.
Besides, I knew that my father was an extremely wise man, and could probably beat my friend to a battle of wits any day. I played a game of chess with my father every weekend, and from his track record of winning every single game, I believed my dad to be invincible. He was the hero of the household that I went to whenever I had any sort of philosophical, technical, or otherwise outlandish questions.
In my freshman year of high school, one of my friends set up his own server and had his own blog running from it. I was jealous. I wanted to have a website too, but I had no idea how to do it. So I marched up to my father and demanded that he set up a server for me. He gave me a weird look at first, but then agreed. Within a couple weeks he had installed linux on an old laptop for me and I was uploading html files to a dynamic dns website.
I felt like I was on top of the world.
of course, I had no idea what I was doing, couldn’t tell the difference between PHP and HTML code, but was extremely satisfied at the fact that I did something that few other kids my age did.
My father showed me how to use wake on LAN to turn on my server from my desktop, and how I could use cd and ls to navigate around the filesystem.
A couple instances I nearly broke the server through my experimentation, and was extremely embarrassed to tell my father. I made mistakes that I had no clue how to reverse, and even hours spent on Google couldn’t rectify the damage I accidentally did to my server. When I finally approached my father again, he sighed and graciously came over to help me fix my machine.
But of course, my father got no credit when my friends were impressed by how I had my own website. I was more concerned by how much attention I could get via the internet instead of thanking my father for enabling me to set up all that stuff. Parenting really is a thankless job.
Situations like this happened over and over again, big and small, continuously through my high school career. In my junior year of high school, I built a quadrocopter with my dad doing most of the hard thinking and educating. But since I was the one with the soldering iron in my hand, I took all the credit.
And on top of that, as I progressed through my teenage years, I had more gripes about my parents than I had nice things to say. I saw all the flaws, shortcomings, and problems of my family and wondered if things would ever change. And even though I recognized that my family got along much better than some of my other friends’ families, I was still completely oblivious to what an insanely amazing pair of parents that I had.
Coming to college, I looked for father figures, mentors, and people that I could receive advice from. I found myself among an incredible group of mentors that gave me incredible advice, guiding me in directions I never dreamed possible.
But somewhere along the line, I looked back at my development through middle school and high school, and realized that my father was more present than I had thought while going through it. I thought about him setting up a server for me, and helping me to build my quadrocopter.
It’s crazy to think that I could have gone through my entire life and missed that. In fact, it makes me wonder how parents feel when their children don’t recognize the sacrifices that they make for their kids.
Ultimately, what matters is unique to each person, and I can’t make that definition for anybody but myself. But something about the human condition is most powerful in it’s ability to connect people together.
Don’t miss it.