It’s hard to name exactly what my first memory of my father was, but I know that the running theme throughout almost every memory I have of him is his laugh. That full, warmhearted laugh that came so easily and so often, that laugh which always made a person feel as if they had just told him the funniest thing he’d ever heard. In all of my memories of the red rocks and deserts of Sedona, my childhood home, I still see his smile, his Hawaiian shirts, his sweat pants, the way he’d be outside in the hot sun, cutting boards, nailing things together, planting trees.

Back in Sedona, I remember the car rides to school, to art classes, or to soccer practice, and how I felt so comfortable just talking his ear off, rattling off facts about superheroes or dinosaurs as he listened, laughed, and replied. I remember how I’d grip so tightly onto every insight he offered, how everything he ever said seemed so instrumental.


And when I became a teenager, I remember Hermosa Beach, back in those adolescent years where I was busy finding myself for the first time, starting to become who I am now. I remember talking to him in the kitchen, seeing the first hints of grey just starting to touch his hair, imagining how we’d still be talking years later in a future that seemed so obvious at the time, but in reality never occurred.

Even now that it’s been a decade since he died, it still all seems so surreal. I can’t deny the fact that Father’s Day is always a strange day for me. Losing him when I was only 17 years old, still just a high schooler, created an unfillable pothole in the road of my life, and whenever Father’s Day comes back around, it’s as if I’ve been looking away and accidentally swerved right back into it. All these years later, I can’t help but always feel like he’s still only a phone call away, as if I should be able to just buy a plane ticket right back to Hermosa Beach and see him throwing a Frisbee in the sand, getting ready to go on the sailboat, or maybe just walking around whistling in one of those Hawaiian shirts he wore.


Nicholas Conley – Author

Tragedy never disappears; it’s part of what makes human existence what it is, and I’m proud of the life I’ve made for myself. Veronica, the brilliant woman I’ll be marrying in just a few months, is the light in my heart, a constant source of love and energy that always brightens my day. I feel lucky to have such enormous love from my equally enormous extended family, a group that stretches all the way from Boston to North Carolina, Arizona to California, and more. I feel lucky to also feel such genuine love from my fiancée’s family up here in New England, and from all of the many, many close friends I’ve collected over the years. To be surrounded by such closeness, from people both near and far, is truly something amazing.

Life is life: tragedy, happiness, all of it. But most of all, on Father’s Day, though there’s an ache in my chest a mile wide that I can’t deny or get rid of, I feel lucky to have been his son, to have known him, to have called him my father. I wish he was still here, but the memories will never fade, and I’ll never forget him.




17 thoughts on “Father’s Day: Looking Back

  1. A beautiful tribute to your father Nicholas. I’m so sorry you lost him so young. Both of you should have had the opportunity to create more wonderful memories together. Your story is filled with love. May your life’s journey continue along such a happy path. Thanks for sharing your grateful heart.

    • Sorry to hear that you have faced the same painful circumstances, but thank you for sharing and connecting. It’s a painful thing that never quite gets less painful, but the fond memories are always the most important thing.

  2. Nicholas, this is one of the most beautiful and touching testimonies to a father I have ever had the honor of reading. Thank you very much for sharing, man. It’s clear to me that he had a huge impact on your life, and helped you become the man you are today, and I know he’d be proud. You have my deepest condolences. I’m proud to be just one of the friends you’ve made along your journey, which is part of my journey, too.

    • Thank you Dustin, and yes, I feel truly lucky to have had him in my life, even if only for such a short time. And I’m glad to know you, as well, and to have the opportunity to connect! Thank you for your frequent presence, it is deeply appreciated.

      • You are welcome. I think that a lot of people (particularly young people,) take what is given for granted. It’s only when they’re gone that they realize the impact that person had on their lives. Now obviously, I’m not referring to you, because it’s clear to me that you cherish every moment, and there’s nothing more you can do. I am glad to know you, too, man. Your posts are always a pleasure to read. You bring a certain something that many blogs lack, and that is your heart.

  3. A wonderful remembrance, embracing all the facets, whether painful or not. I lost my father when I was twelve and you, from my view, so splendidly touched upon that struggle (if that is the right word) to remember the person whose leaving left such a mark on the rest of one’s life.

    And I have to add that it made me think of the song and video “Sedona” from the band Houndmouth (from Indiana). It seems to have that same wistful melancholy…tragedy and happiness. And life goes on.

    • That’s a perfect way to put it, when you say “the person whose leaving left such a mark on the rest of one’s life.” It’s an odd thing, how the loss of someone at such a young age becomes such a character defining moment in one’s life story.

      P.S., I am familiar with that song! As a former Sedona resident, I can’t help that I have a soft spot for any mention of Sedona in any media form.

  4. Beautiful post with such heart. Life is life with all the joy and pain. Your father contributed to who you are today and that legacy of love is the greatest joy in a parent’s life. He did well. He would be proud.

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s