Funpa 2004

Moving forward is a theme, not only in my life, but a theme throughout American history. And as I am living through this chapter of American history, my hope is that we can all move forward.

When I look at people, I imagine that each person is a walking version of a book. A unique story written by the author, one day at a time, whose words inspire a plethora of feelings and emotions in others who choose to read and understand the journey of another. Because every person (and every book) we encounter, impacts us in a different way, depending on where we are in our own lives. Isn’t it fair to say that our lives are continually evolving based on major life events and even our upbringing? Simply look at your parents: Whether you love them or not, they shaped and molded you into the person you are today. 

“ …this is the chapter where boy meets girl, they fall in love, and shortly thereafter the girl breaks his heart.”

My father was one of the most influential people in my life. I can still hear his voice in my head, telling me, “Don’t be lazy.” It was in such a casual way, never judging me—just a statement. And to this day, I do certain things because of that voice. Apparently, my dad thought I was lazy because this was repeatedly said to me and my brother. This is a man who coached me through years of soccer and came to almost all of my college games. He would be yelling at me after I took a dive as a goalkeeper or when I fell playing in the midfield. He was yelling words of encouragement: “Get up Jodi. Get back up, don’t quit, keep going!” My father, my biggest fan, was always pushing me to move forward. His words, which at times felt a little harsh, have become some of my sweetest memories of our time together.

The story you are about to read really belongs to my father, as it’s his story that he was unable to share. It’s my perspective of how I saw his life and his sad but triumphant end.

Ted grew up in a four-bedroom house with four siblings in a suburb of Denver during the 60s. They were a modest Irish/Slavic family who loved music, watched musicals and westerns, and ate dinner as a family every night. Ted was the middle child whom his parents decided to raise differently from his older brothers. They chose to discipline him in a kinder and loving manner, without spanking or telling him “no.” He turned out to be a pretty normal kid like his siblings. The Farrell boys and their sister loved ice cream, hiking, camping and playing musical instruments. Family lore has it that Ted would eat ice cream straight out of the basement freezer and leave spoons in the containers.

When he was 14, Ted’s father died suddenly. A pivotal time in a young person’s life, especially for him, as he had an argument with his father earlier that day. Without any resolve nor a chance to say goodbye, this regret stayed with Ted for years. It took him almost his entire life to work through this event that shaped how he handled his relationships and his life. He became a young man of few words, keeping his thoughts and feelings bottled up. It was through his artistic talent that he shared some of his emotions. As a young adult, he played guitar and piano, wrote a few songs, and drew. He loved fishing and hiking around Jefferson Lake and Eleven Mile Reservoir as they offered him sweet memories of his father.

At 22, Ted found love with a kind and soft-spoken girl (my mother) who lived down the street. Their families shared a love of music, and for a short time they had a band, The Family Affair. Ted and his bride seemed to have a perfect life: purchasing a home and starting a family of their own. Even as a kid, I had no idea what really went on in my parents’ relationship. When you are young, you have a limited view of the world, of how things work. You only know what you know. Which is all the same for Ted, he only knew what he knew. He thought he had a great family life, and he did. They had a house, he worked hard for his family, they took vacations, the kids were healthy, they had a dog. Could there be anything more?

There came to be another pivotal chapter in Ted’s life, the one where his wife asked for a divorce. Not because they fought—they hardly talked—what could they even fight about? They were just roommates, paying the mortgage and raising two kids. The divorce was a shock to Ted, to the kids and to everyone who knew them. There’s a little secret that every family keeps. It’s their personal business and that’s how most families like it. Now, this wasn’t really a secret; it was a simple fact that these two people had challenges in communication. Seems ridiculous now to think that a happy family and a marriage broke apart because of communication issues. But isn’t that the sad truth of so many marriages?

Ted, this gentle man, the best dad and devoted friend, walked through the next couple of years alone. Not totally alone, but a little like Forrest Gump on his long run. He spent time hiking and writing as a way to process what happened in his marriage and how he had come to this point in his story. With time and a little counseling, he moved forward. And along came another love, and he jumped in head first. A little too eager if you ask me. Six months later, Ted is marrying wife number two. This isn’t the chapter of his life where he lives happily ever after. No, this is the chapter where boy meets girl, they fall in love, and shortly thereafter the girl breaks his heart.

The final chapter of Ted’s story is that he learned to balance his emotions and his relationships with people. He worked to be his true self. He became good friends with first wife, continued to be a great role model for his children, and was known as SUT: Sweet Uncle Ted and Funpa to all who loved him. The best part was that he found true love with a woman who was his perfect match, wife number three! I’ve never known two people more perfect for each other than my dad and Teri. They were open and honest with each other, they hiked and camped together, and most importantly, they both had to work through challenges in their own lives to find each other at the right time. Thank goodness for them, they were proof that people can grow and change. That we can move forward through grief and find joy again.

The moral of Ted’s story is to keep moving forward. To get up when you are down. Get up and move on if you are stuck right now, because whatever you are going through won’t last forever. Keep moving forward and don’t worry about everyone else; stay on your path. Don’t feel sorry for yourself; pull yourself up and get back on your feet. You may have had a rough day, a bad week or challenging last two years (damn pandemic); however, you’ve got this! Get up and take another chance at living, traveling, a new career or a new love. You’ve got a fresh start today and tomorrow and the day after that. Just get up. You may not be lucky enough to have my father’s voice in your head saying, “Get up,” but I’ll share it with you.