My father, Dave McMillan, has traveled the country as a business consultant, staying at places like The Ritz-Carlton. This week, he was my business consultant, staying in my 5-year-old son’s bedroom (Luke was exiled to the couch).
I thought about that irony this week as I observed him hunched in the Observer office, working on a desktop computer crammed onto a wire shelf in a hallway closet.
My dad is retired and lives in Idaho, but he was kind enough to visit Florida and work with my staff for a couple of weeks.
On his last day in the office, Oct. 27, he called over to me and said, “Come look at this for a minute.”
I knew from experience going back to my teenage years that “a minute” in front of computer hardware with my dad meant that I might need to bring some snacks, maybe a pillow. Sensing that I was once again a reluctant pupil, he said, with a fatherly eye roll, “Or at least pretend to listen.”
I did my best to follow the cords and understand what was plugged in where, and why. But just as I did as a teenager, I was missing context and had no confidence that I could retrace his steps in case of an emergency. But, just as I did when I was a teenager, I knew that he would be a phone call away, way too generous with his time, way too forgiving of my sin of taking him for granted.
When I was a teenager, it never occurred to me that I would eventually be 43 years old and he would be 70. Now that I’m 43, it is hard to avoid thinking about the dwindling number of World Series games we have left to watch — or doze through — together.
Ever since my wife, Hailey, and I bought the Observer, he has been encouraging me, like a guide who brought an extra life jacket when I forgot mine on the whitewater raft of business ownership.
Because of his vantage point as a grandfather, on this trip he was also able to avoid taking my own kids for granted while he was here.
At a softball game for my 8-year-old daughter, Kennedy, for example, Dad watched with amusement as Luke stole my wife’s $1,000 cell phone to use as a paperweight for his foil cheeseburger wrapper on the bleachers.
My dad loves watching ocean waves, and despite our best intentions, work prevented us from visiting Flagler Beach for the first 10 days of his trip. On his last evening in town, after my tour of the Hallway Closet o’ Tech, we drove over the bridge, and he sighed as the ocean seemed to rise into view like a ship coming for a rescue.
We stood side by side, mostly in silence, taking pictures of surfers and watching the pale moon rise over the pier into the dusty blue sky.
Hours later, we were on the road again, en route to the Orlando airport for his predawn takeoff, and he was gone.
But not for long. Soon, he was texting me again about firewalls, backup drives, interdependencies.