The earliest memories I have of my Dad—I would be watching barney, dora or whatever, and just wait for the first sounds of someone coming up the stairs. Once I heard it, I would takeoff sprinting down the hall, timing it so that my dad would walk around the corner and just see me booking it right at him, like an ambush. He would swing me up, in like a half hug half containment effort and then carry me into the kitchen. All smiles, all laughs. Around that time, I remember I’d wake up at 6 AM and just go hangout in my parent’s room. I loved watching my dad shave, put on his fancy ties and shirts and jackets and shoes. We’d watch CNBC (I had no clue what was going on) and then he’d be off. I think I gravitated to the pride he had in his work—I would tell friends how cool my dad’s job was and when they would ask me what he did I would give them a look and say “business” as if it couldn’t be more obvious.
My Dad’s pride transcended his work. He spoke so highly of friends and family, getting visually animated telling me how my cousins were doing, or telling stories of he and his buddies’ antics back at Saint George’s—the way he talked about it, getting caned sounded like a badge of honor. He loved his skiing, his golf, his poker, and his surfing, and extracted so much joy from it all that it was impossible not to envy. By age 9 or 10 I had had enough. “Dad, I’m out,” I told him curtly referring to Whistler ski school. I felt I was ready to run with the bulls. At that point I was literally dreaming of shredding Peak chair with my Dad and all his ski friends. I wanted to get a taste of whatever it was he was doing, and he made it happen. I kissed ski school goodbye, and for a couple of years was a part of the entourage, bombing up and down the slopes. We had our own secret trails, uncle Ian would throw on his ski instructor coat so we could cut the lines, and we’d go all day before kicking it back at the Dubh Linn gate for a couple drinks—sprites for me. I felt I had finally made it to the inner circle, and it exceeded the hype. Those were some of the happiest times in my life, and I developed a life-long love of skiing. Just like my Dad. Of course it wasn’t just the skiing I had to get in on—we went golfing almost every Sunday and played poker on boys nights whenever Mom left the house. When I found out my Dad liked hockey, I watched every single LA Kings game. When I wanted to know more about this “business” stuff he did, he brought me into his office at work and tried to teach me about exponents. I think he wanted me to be the first third grader to know how to do a discounted cash flow analysis.
I grew up absolutely idolizing my father, and he never made me feel that the feeling wasn’t mutual. I did whatever I could to get his approval, and no matter the result, he always made me feel that he was genuinely proud of me. I’ll never forget him standing next to the opposing team’s goalies during my rec league youth soccer games, he was literally standing on the field during games. He was THAT Dad. I can’t even imagine what the other parents must have thought, but I loved it. It couldn’t get any better than scoring a goal in front of my Dad, and if I did he would talk about it for days. He never failed to make me feel special like that, and if someone as smart and passionate and hardworking and caring believed in me then there was no reason for me not to believe in myself. When I was in third or fourth grade, it kept coming up that we needed to conserve more water. This was around 2007, oil prices are high, economy still hadn’t gone down the toilet. I came up with this idea to take all this ocean water and just filter out the salt. Then we would be left with some good ole fresh water, and you know what, while we’re at it, let’s take the salt and turn it into a fuel so we don’t have to deal with high oil prices. Boom, two birds one stone. Talking it over with my Dad, he sat me down and told me firmly, “Austin, that is the greatest idea I have ever heard”. Well, it got the thumbs up from Dad, so I went and I told anyone who would listen—it got to the point where I was pitching the idea to people’s parents and even in an interview for middle school. Having my Dad there to cheer me on, to give me advice, nothing felt farfetched. He gave me the confidence to think that anything was possible.
My Dad started debilitating noticeably to me when I was in middle school, and while I felt like something was off, his forceful presence and undying spirit nullified many of the fears I had about the future. I mean it was my Dad, he was the one YOU came to when YOU had a problem. He could handle anything. But soon, many of the things that fueled his pride and his love of life, were slowly taken away from him. No more working, no more skiing, no more Hornby Island, no more traveling or visiting friends and family. It was in the face of such adversity, in his coping with this pain, that I got to be even closer with my father, and truly get to know him. At his most vulnerable, my dad was the most caring, empathetic, and supportive person I have ever known. Never a drop of negativity in his attitude, my dad fought Huntington’s like crazy. When my brother and I went over to his house to visit, he would gleam unceasingly, and pester us with questions: how was the chem test, how was the volleyball game, how are the ladies? Despite all his day-to-day hardship, I never once heard a word of complaint, or a whiff of self-pity. This was someone who in the worst of times still had the perspective to enjoy life and find reason to be optimistic. His enduring spirit and enthusiasm became a new source of inspiration for me through high school and college, whether it was how I carried myself around friends and family or at midnight studying for the next day’s test.
My Dad was my biggest fan, he was my brother Lauch’s biggest fan. With him at our backs, we could be whatever we wanted, and anything was possible. We carry him now with us everyday in our hearts and in our minds. We love you and miss you Dad, and we thank you for being the person you were, and inspiring us each and every day. Knowing that you’re watching from above, we can and will continue to face life with wonder, spirit, and passion, because you wouldn’t want it any other way. Cheers to Don Farris.