Father’s Day is approaching, and it’s not an easy day for everyone. I lost my dad in 2015 and know this all too well.
To all the dadless ladies and gents out there: as hard as I know it can be, I hope you forgive yourself for all that was screwed up or left unsaid. You love and continue to love. There’s a misunderstanding that the relationship stops when a death occurs; I don’t agree. I feel connected and know—against most reason—that my dad is listening as I turn these memories over and over in my mind. They are alive in what he left behind, but also in us. We keep them alive.
Let me back up and tell you a bit about my dad.
My father, David Carr, was a notable New York Times columnist and the author of the bestselling memoir The Night of the Gun. He died unexpectedly in 2015 due to complications from a lung cancer he did not know he had. My dad wrote extensively about media, red carpets (glamorous), and newsrooms (less glamorous). He also had a quite an unusual path to the Times. In his 20s and 30s, he became addicted to alcohol and cocaine, eventually graduating to smoking crack cocaine. He got his then-girlfriend pregnant, and she gave birth to two premature baby girls.
It was then when my father came to a reckoning point: would he continue to use drugs and ruin not only his life but potentially that of these innocent babies? Or would he get sober and stick around to raise us? My dad turned himself over to treatment, and after an intensive six-month stay at Eden House, he was sober. For the majority of my life, I had an understanding that my birth had changed his life. My father has had the greatest influence on me in all aspects of my life.
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I recently published a book, All That You Leave Behind, that includes many of the emails and lessons we shared, and as I sit alone in my apartment with June 16th looming, I’m reminded of being taught by him, regardless of the day.
Here are some lessons I learned from my dad:
• Listen when you enter a room.
• Don’t buy into your myth.
• Don’t be the first one to talk—but if you do talk first, say something smart.
• Speak and then stop; don’t stutter or mumble; be strong in what you have to say.
• Be defiant.
• You have to work the phones. Call people. Don’t rely on emails.
• Ask questions but ask the right questions.
• Ask people what mistakes they’ve made so you can get their shortcuts.
• Know when enough is enough.
• Make eye contact with as many people as possible.
• Don’t be in shitty relationships because you’re tired of being alone.
• Be grateful for the things you have in this life. You are lucky.
• Practice patience, even though it’s one of the hardest things to master.
• Failure is a part of the process—maybe the most important part.
• Alcohol is not a necessary component of life.
• Street hotdogs are not your friend.
• Remind yourself that nobody said this would be easy.
• If more negative things come out your mouth than positive, then Houston, we have a problem.
• We contain multitudes.
• Always love (see band: Nada Surf).
• Have a dance move and don’t be afraid to rock it.
• Don’t go home just because you’re tired.
• Don’t take credit for work that’s not yours. If your boss does this, take note.
• Be generous with praise and be specific in that praise: “That line was killer.”
• Cats are terrible; they poop in your house.
• Say what you mean and mean what you say.
• Do the next right thing.
• Our dogs are us. Only cuter.
• You are loved, and you belong to me, the world, and yourself.
Images Courtesy of Erin Lee Carr; Author Photo: Stephanie Geddes