Atomic Pieces of Self
I’ll give a little preamble that this is something quite personal and not related to learning a new fantastic framework or language but rather just something I felt I wanted to write about. It has tie ins to my love for learning but other than that this is a more just a piece of writing, an experience put to ink (or to bits rather)
On October 25th, 2016 I lost my father, or rather I lost what little of my father was left after Parkinson’s took hold. It was a disease that slowly took every part of his being away, but yet sometimes when you’d visit, you could see his personality, the very core of what he was, manage to scratch its way through. Losing a penny does not make you poor, but at what point would you be considered poor? How many pennies? Is it the 10000th? How many parts of yourself do you lose before you are not you? If you lose your love for the color purple — most would consider you — well you. If you lose your ability to play guitar, your love of a movie, how many of these atomic pieces of self do you lose before someone would deem you unrecognizable. I can’t tell you the exact point in which I lost my father, but I can tell you it wasn’t October 25th 2016.
I didn’t know my father as well as I wished. Unfortunately he was plagued with trauma that caused major divides in not just ours, but many of his close family relationships. He was a flawed man in many ways, but what he did bestow on me was this striving to know more, to be a constant student and learner. He was always learning and exploring new things, whether it be artistically through his guitar, or scientifically through his constant science magazines, or the show “Quirks and Quarks”. He was always reading, finding new knowledge to gain. Not just specifically computers (as he was a computer engineer), he always ventured outside his comfort into biology, physics, chemistry, he held no bias to knowledge. I would often come up to him about something I had learned in school or something I thought was neat, and every time he had already found knowledge on that subject and would often expand on what I had just said. I miss that. Those moments of sharing.
There hasn’t been a day since his death that I have not thought about him. I’m now at a point in my career and education where I actually may know stuff that he didn’t know. There have been moments where I wanted to call him up and just talk to him about all this cool stuff I’m learning about, not to show superiority in knowledge but rather to hear the joy in his voice to learn something new and to know that I possibly could be the person to show him that, cause for my entire life I was always the student and he the teacher.
I gave a speech at his funeral, which I will share here.
My dad wasn’t perfect, and to be quite honest for a part of my life I was almost ready to stop calling him my dad. It’s important for me to tell you that this conflict existed, that there was pain and hardship. He used anger as a go to for his emotions whenever he was uncomfortable or unfamiliar with something, and for a period of time I did as well.
This is not to say that at every point in my childhood was a negative one, I am thankful to have many happy memories with my dad; there was a disconnect though, and for a long time he held this anger and self-resentment tight. Once my dad started getting the early symptoms of Parkinson’s and saw his health start to slowly deteriorate he began to embrace his vulnerability, and worked relentlessly to be a better person to himself and everyone around him. He became his own catalyst for change. He removed this burden of anger and this constant need to cover his weakness.
I could tell you of all the amazing accomplishments he’s done professionally, and how incredibly intelligent he was but anyone that knew him could tell you that. I want to tell you from the perspective of his son. Just as bones heal stronger after broken, my resolve to be better and to embrace my weaknesses is in part because of him and reinforced by his actions. My dad became the last link in a long chain of hurt. My dad chose the harder fight. Yehuda Berg said:
“Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future”
My dad broke the chain. He showed me there is strength in admitting weakness and fault, and I no longer feared being “less” than someone. I wish I could hug my dad one last time. I wish I could make more memories with him. But what I can do now is say to you all how absolutely proud I am to have had Kenneth Roy Hancock as my father and how much I love him.
These lessons that I learned could not have been found if I had not been in the state to find them. Meaning, it took me many years to find meaning in some of his actions, to find how to take negative experiences and find the positives. I can proudly say I was ashamed of the person I was when I was younger. I have seen myself grow as a person, I was riddled with low self-esteem, and anger for many years. Luckily I had people and support from those that I now call family to be a net for me so that when I did hit bottom, I did not hit it with a crippling blow. They gave me the support I needed to find these lessons within my life.
I’m sad that I didn’t know my dad as thoroughly as I wanted. I will always wonder what little atomic piece of himself was lost that I will never be able to find, what other lesson could be learned. I’m proud of him for facing a disease with honesty, openly admitting to being afraid to those closest with him. He will forever be a person that will be a pillar and core of who I am.