By Stefan Jaeger
I’ve always had a difficult relationship with my dad; it was more a “good friends” way of relating with him. He hadn’t been with me and my mom as long as I could remember. When I started high school he had paid attention to me a bit more, but he was still distant. The times when I needed a dad by my side, there was no one there.
I was 16 when my grandfather, who had been living in the house with me and Mom, died. It was a lonely and empty feeling losing the only male role model I had known during my childhood, especially being at an age when feelings seem overhelming and you don’t know which category in your mind they are supposed to fit into.
What I remember especially about that time was the urgent need to have someone who was proud of me, to give me the feeling that what I did was was important. For a long time I had known nothing but following the way others had paved for me. I graduated from high school, worked for a couple of months, went through my compulsory duty in the Austrian army, and decided to head for college.
By Fall 2000 I thought I had become someone. I had a girl, some friends, had started a good job and college as well — things I always had wished for. What I had forgotten was to look inside me, to look for someone I could trust and believe in — someone to believe in me.
Christmas 2000 arrived, bringing me closer to a new year. We opened our presents on Christmas Eve, as most people in Europe do. Standing beside the Christmas tree I wanted to get out of the room, to end the duty of spending the evening with my family.
My dad hugged me and his present was not of the fancy sort. I’m not sure if in that moment he even realized what he gave me when he spoke. “Something I have lacked, sometimes, is the ability to show people that I’m proud of what they have accomplished. It seems I have lacked that quality most to one of the most important persons in my life — you. I’m proud of you and I believe in the path you’ve decided for.”
Hugging him felt like it lasted forever, and I could see our tears dropping slowly. Then I realized how hard it had been for him.
I remembered Sir Issac Newton saying, “If I have seen further than certain other men it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” That is how I felt. That 24th of December, the usual presents didn’t really matter. My dad, my friend, had given me the most important present of them all — faith in myself, just by letting me stand on his shoulders to see a bit further.
EDITOR’S NOTE: the author’s web site is http://mindwork.net