By Sean A. Donahue © 2006
Sometimes you need to be grounded.
I always thought when I was young that my dad got some strange kick out of grounding me. Fight with my sister, grounded. Kick my brother, grounded. Look twice at the last piece of cake. Yeah, yeah I know.
I didn't understand what he was trying to teach me, he always seemed to have some sort of mystic story to tell that ended up like most of our father's stories, walking to school uphill, both ways.
Whenever Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid was created I thought they had made Pat Morita an ethnic version of my father. He would speak in tongues and tell me to, "Listen to your mother."
When I started radio I abandoned my business major. I thought, "Go for your dreams and forget all the sage advice Dad told you."
After all, it was my life. After my grandparents paid for my first year at a private school, which was a nightmare in itself, I decided to pay my own way into school. It was the absolute worst decision of my life. I partied too much, didn't care about life and was a typical immature college student even though I was 21.
But Dad was always there watching. Never approving, just watching, for he had given me his advice on life and it was my life to screw up if I wished but he was going to watch me fail. It took me leaving business because it bored me, and getting into radio that finally got his attention.
He never approved of me leaving business school. And he hated the idea of me being poor the rest of my life. When I started out in my first full time radio job in Lubbock, Texas I was paid $12,000 a year. I was ecstatic; I was getting paid to talk on the radio.
Dad wasn't happy. He wanted me to be responsible and after the incident at the hotel room where I watched him tear my credit cards in two and pay half of my debt he knew that sometime in the future I would come to him searching for help like all the other males in my family.
But there was one weekend where he came up to see me, or actually came to see the University of Nebraska play football. I had to work the day of the game from midnight to six in the morning and though I had worked all night, Dad had me up doing things for my mother.
"You can sleep when you're dead, Sean," he'd tell me.
I was pissed, madder than anything, I was tired, grumpy, knew that I had to try and sleep before the game cause after the game I would have to go back up to the station to do the overnight once again. I just wanted to rest. But Dad would have none of it, from the yard work being done to taking me out to lunch, we did everything but sleep.
I was exhausted. We went to the game, watched Nebraska kick the living dog snot out of Texas Tech and then went to the station. I crashed on the couch and slept for an hour and a half. I did my shift and went home, trying to crawl into bed before anyone noticed me.
But as I opened the door to my apartment, Dad was awake and reading a book. He said nothing to me as he watched me collapse in my room.
It took weeks later for my Mom to explain.
"Your Dad is ever so proud of you, he listened to you and he couldn't be prouder," she said.
"Then why hasn't he told me," I asked?
"It's not his way."
I was so used to not talking to my Dad after the times that I had disappointed him that I never even thought about it until my ex-wife pointed it out.
"You never talk to your dad long, Sean. Why is that?"
"I guess he doesn't have anything to say to me. He'd always talk about a sentence or two always cursing Charlie McBride or work and then say, 'Here's your mother' and I'd never hear from him twice in the same phone call," I'd reply.
Fast forward a couple of years...
We are celebrating the best book that Rock 101 has ever had. While champagne corks are being popped I call the two people I want to celebrate this great victory with, my parents.
"Dad, we did it, best book ever, #1 in demo and #5 12+. I couldn't be happier," I told him.
"Sean, I want you to take a moment and celebrate this great achievement in your life. Here's your mother," my father said.
Here's your mother? Here's your MOTHER? Where's the, "Attaboy?"
Where is the... "I knew you could do it?"
I was hurt and searching for approval, vocal, visible, anything that could make me feel more of a man and less of a boy.
Mom was there with the "I'm so proud of you!" and "You're my boy!" and all the approval I needed and wanted.
"Sean, your Dad wants to talk to you," Mom interrupted me in my recovering glory.
NOW THAT'S WHAT I WANT! This is where I am going to get the glory I deserve, I want, I need. My Dad was finally going to give me the props I wanted.
"Sean, have you taken a moment to celebrate this great achievement in your life?"
"Well Dad, we're popping champagne and having a party..."
"Moment's over son. What that survey said is what people thought of you three months ago, you have to earn their trust all over again. Get back to work."
And then it hit me. I need to stay grounded. I can't have the great highs and the deep lows. I have to maintain an average, slightly higher than everyone else, but never the less an average.
No matter how hard I try to keep my head in the clouds, I'm glad my dad taught me how to remain grounded.
Sean A. Donahue is a freelance writer, radio personality and poker player. He is the author of Instant Tragedy which looks at his life and those who he has touched and been touched by. He is divorced with two children and lives in Lubbock, Texas.