If

My father taught me every word of this, his poetry was of sweat, hard work, laughter, and words that could burn a youngling like swallowed kerosene. To me he gave everything I needed, in just the way I needed it, it was a firm hand to guide me and strong arms to catch me when I almost fell. When I discovered Kipling as an idealistic young man, chomping at the bit to go into the world and make my way, to be a force of positive good. I shared my discovery with him. His retort "yeah, do that", the heavy irony of his nonchalant way of telling me, you have work to do was not lost on me. neither was every stanza, line, and word that Kipling wrote that my father had already shown me, this and more.

 

When he died in 2008, I traveled home to his funeral, I was to speak. One word and one memory kept returning to me as I sat on a plane thinking of him. '"If", if I had learned sooner, if I had listened more, if I had neglected hard things less often, if I had been more patient, humble and receptive to his teaching how much better might my life have been? Perhaps in the end, he, now not just my tutor and mentor but also my friend, maybe I did some of what the things he showed me, but he left far too soon. I still had growing to do.

 

I delivered his eulogy and I closed it by reading this poem, a tribute to the man that I would be nothing without. On the front row, just in front of me sat two small future men of his line, my son and nephew. I looked them in the eye and told them, that these words were for them, from him, through me.