It’s hard to grow as a person without heroes and mentors to inspire and guide you. Everyone needs someone to admire, respect, and follow in the footsteps of. I have many heroes. I have several mentors. But many years ago today, (I won’t say how many, an I doubt he will either,) my greatest hero was born. I may never live up to his expectations, but simply trying to has (and continues to) make me a better man. For my childhood (which I managed to stretch out for far longer than most people should,) I managed to skate by on his reputation. When I became a father (actually became a father, just having a kid doesn’t count) I learned the hard way many of the lessons he tried to teach me and probably bruised his head on the wall as a result of my lack of understanding. Since then, rather than trying to get by on his reputation, I’ve tried to build up my own, patterning it as best I could after his. Admittedly, he’s a tough act to follow, and I haven’t always made the cut. But I continue to try, and the better I get at it, the more I succeed. Roger Gray is the second greatest man I’ve ever known. Second place doesn’t lessen my admiration in the slightest, because First place goes to the man who taught him how to be a man, my Grandfather, whom I miss dearly. I just pray that I can be as good a father to my daughters, and maybe, just maybe, I can be at least half as good a dad to my son.

Happy Birthday, Dad. And an early Happy Father’s day, too.

Through my work in Martial Arts, my volunteer work with BACA, HRA/CASSP/SOC, and several others, as well as just daily life, I’ve seen a lot of kids with horrible parents, if any at all. I wish I could be more of a father to my son. I am truly honored by those I’ve taught and mentored that have chosen me to be their father. Even then, I still struggle and often fall short of the example set before me, but I couldn’t even do as well as I do if I hadn’t had a great act to follow.

So thank you, Dad. Thanks for being a great Dad. Thanks for smacking me upside the head wen I was being ridiculous, thanks for teaching me the consequences of my actions (probably the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced,) thanks for pretty much giving me everything I ever wanted (within reason,) thanks for bailing me out every time I was over my head (no matter how p!$$ed you were at me,) and above all, thanks for showing me what it really means to be ‘Dad’.

One more time: Happy birthday, Dad!