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“One Thing I Learned” — Father’s Day Week, part 4

June 19, 2019

John Thomas Vidakovich, a/k/a Johnny Vee, is my closest clergy brother. We’ve weathered storms together, laughed and cried together, played music together, and worked on more projects together than I can count. I’d love to find a way to have you and him and me sit down together for coffee, and — oh no wait, that’s right, he doesn’t drink coffee…don’t let that or any other stuff get in the way of what he’s about to say in this letter to his late father. He wrote this a couple of days ago, and has graciously given me his expressed permission to share it with you here as we continue to celebrate Father’s Day all week long —

Dear Dad,
I have started this letter at least ten times and can’t seem to get past the first sentence.

I am having trouble saying to you how I feel about you.

“Saying” was always a road block for us. Saying how we felt, saying important things about ourselves to each other. So much left unsaid, so much regret.
With a little distance from it the truth seems clearer to me now. Often it is hard to say important things to the people we love the most. I knew what I wanted to say to you but I just couldn’t get the words out and my intuition tells me the same was true for you.

I learned a lot from you. You were one tough old Croatian. Your mental toughness in bad situations made an impact on me and has helped me weather the storms of my life. You quit drinking cold turkey, no support groups. Not an easy thing to do.

There was one incident in particular in which your kindness taught me how to love others. You and mom had just got a new car. Judy (editorial note-my sister) begged you and mom to drive it and finally prevailed. She had an accident and when we arrived in the scene we saw a crumpled fender and a distraught teenage girl. Mom’s first words were “Oh no! Our new car!” The first thing you did was walk over, put your arm around my sister and consoled her. I have used that story in many sermons because it teaches an important truth.

The older I get, the more important these things are to me. Now that I am a dad, I have greater empathy for you.

Speaking of being a dad, I wish you could have seen your grandkids grow up. They inherited that mental toughness from you and have now turned into wonderful adults. One thing I learned from our relationship is to step outside of my comfort zone and say important things to them. I don’t always succeed, but I am trying.

You should see your great grandsons, Petra’s boys Brody and Abraham. They are full of energy and smart as a whip. I just wish they could have experienced you saying “pull my finger.”

I love you dad. I think about you often.

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