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There is nothing worse in the world than losing a parent. And while we all worry about the little things in life and moan and complain about how unhappy we are about this or that, at the end of the day none of it matters—and never should.

My dad died two weeks ago. He was 48 years old, and I can’t remember the last time I told him I loved him.

He was a rebel who talked a lot of crap, but didn’t take any. He was obnoxiously stubborn and somewhat of an ass, but that’s what made him, him.

He had some sincere passion for rock ‘n’ roll music that seems to have passed down to me. We’d listen to AC/DC, Tom Petty and Pink Floyd whenever out and about in his suped up Chevy truck. He took me to my first concert. It was Sheryl Crow, and I was 9. When she came back to town two years later, we had some of the best seats in the house, and this tradition continued even after I moved to Chicago.

“Son, you want to fly down to see Tom Petty? Eric Clapton? When’s Sheryl coming around? Who’s playing up there? I’ll come up,” he used to call and say.

I’m wishing I took him up on all those offers, but he did enough of that.

For better or worse, he fought with audience members so his kid would be the one walking away with guitar picks, set lists or drumsticks the band would throw out at the end of the show.  He walked up to Liz Phair when I was too timid to ask her for an autograph at 16, and he flew me to Las Vegas to celebrate my 15th birthday in style, at the Venetian Hotel seeing none other than Crow.  And when he had connections to one of his favorites, Cheap Trick, he got my brother and me backstage. What other 16-year-old had shirts and souvenirs all signed by AC/DC?

Although he wasn’t around most of my childhood as he had his ups and downs with alcohol and drugs, my dad cared for me like none other. He wasn’t able to exactly show it the way I needed, but now, I really know he loved me. It was evident when I sat on his bed and found my columns and countless pictures of me stacked atop his nightstand.  He knew I’d be someone someday.  After all, I am his son.

He and I, whether I like to admit it or not, were kind of similar in the respect that we went against the norm, we liked to be obnoxious, sarcastic and shake things up a bit. He was Steve, and always had been. You either liked it or didn’t. And if you didn’t, tough.

While laying him to rest, that quality, that absolute need to just be you, came out. A distant cousin started seizing, and the service went on. I couldn’t bite my tongue. I stood up and stopped my own father’s  funeral.
If I could help save someone’s life, I was going to do it. At that moment, I was proud to be his son. He would have never let anyone shut me up. And in his typical form, only at his service would fire trucks and ambulances show up. I think he’d be laughing right now. He knows it.

He wasn’t a real thrills guy, and so when the time came, my brother, mother and I stood at his grave with a boombox and a mix CD comprised of all his favorite tunes. He went off in style listening to “TNT” by AC/DC, and we air-guitared in his honor.

I don’t care if your situation with your family or parents is good or bad. You don’t choose them, they choose you. You only get one life, one mom, one dad in this world, and you should love them, love them and love them. No matter how embarrassing it is to do around your friends or how much pain they may have caused you, you don’t want to be like me, regretting that I hadn’t told him I loved him in so long.

Stop worrying about the little things, too. When you get such a wake-up call, the little stuff falls to the wayside. Like Tom Petty sings, “It’ll all work out.” Live your life. Be you, and if people don’t like it—tough.

I love you, dad.

—The Columbia Chronicle, April 20, 2009