A year of milestones

Chad A. Filley
Guest Writer

This last year has contained many changes for me including my 50th birthday this past week.

It’s crazy thinking I have a half a century behind me. My Facebook account lit up with a couple hundred people acknowledging my “big day.” There were so many comments that I eventually sent out a mass statement that read, “Thanks to everybody for the 50th birthday wishes or condolences! It’s weird to think I am a half-century old, but even weirder to think that my life is now one-third over. Here’s to the next 100 years!”

Chad Filley

Truthfully, I couldn’t imagine living 150 years mainly because I would be afraid to see what parts of my body would begin sprouting hair. I’d hate having more facial hair than Michael J. Fox had in Teen Wolf once I hit my mid-120s.

Dendrochronology is a way of determining how old a tree is by counting its rings. The thickness of the rings reveals if it was a good year for the tree. The thicker the ring, the better the weather conditions that year. If there was a similar way of analyzing a human’s life, my last year’s ring would definitely show signs of stress.

May 19 was my dad’s 78th birthday. I shouldn’t complain about turning 50 considering not everybody gets the chance to live that long including my mother. She died a few months after her 30th birthday. I always admired my dad, Archie, because although he was left with an 8-year-old and a newborn baby, he never once complained about his lot in life.

If you wanted to make my dad complain all you had to do was charge an extra 75 cents for peanut butter. His favorite restaurant began charging this fee so he traveled to the Rapid City Sam’s Club and bought a bushel of small peanut butter packets. This was his tribute to the Boston Tea Party. Dad also had his favorite restaurants he frequented and I remember questioning him about why he kept patronizing one particularly bland tasting restaurant. His only response was “They have toothpicks.” That was the gold standard. If the place had toothpicks, it was good.

Anyone who knows my dad is aware he is a little frugal. I was the only five-year-old that had to sign loan documents to get an advance on my allowance. Who knew that one could offer up the family pet and an egg salad sandwich as collateral?

During the energy crises, President Gerald Ford once asked the citizens of the United States to keep their thermostats below 68 degrees in the winter. My dad immediately asked who lived that extravagant of a lifestyle. In my dad’s world, any household keeping the room temperature above 65 should star in an episode of Lifestyle’s of the Rich and Famous complete with a voice-over by Robin Leach. His philosophy dictated that wintertime room temperatures were similar to golf scores, the lower the better.

One night our thermostat setting mysteriously rose to 67 degrees. It was then that I learned what a CSI investigation kit was. Watching my dad dust the thermostat for fingerprints was pretty exciting for a fifth-grader. To this day I still think it was paranormal activity.

Dad rose to the level bank executive despite not having a college degree. He achieved this career path because he was mentally and physically tough. His senior year he had been 31-1 as a high school wrestler and had been the starting guard on an undefeated football team. There were plenty of times in my life that I saw him stare down a bully into full retreat. He also prided himself on the fact that he “did things the right way.” In these times of banking scandals and embezzlement, he held true to his morals.

Five years ago dad’s diagnosis of T-Cell Lymphoma in the small intestine was horrifying. He tackled this challenge with the same toughness shown in all avenues of his life. This type of cancer had a 10 percent survival rate of more than a year, but this didn’t faze him one bit. Without complaint, he fought on. Twice he had portions of his intestines removed; he went through chemotherapy and had a variety of other procedures. His toughness was never clearer than the last five years.

Last fall it became clear that things weren’t going to get better for him and I was able to spend the last week of his life with him.

My father passed away the day before the Presidential Election. We never got the chance to celebrate his birthday in May. I thought about him, I miss him, and I know that Father’s Day will be a little hollow this year, but losing my dad put things into perspective … turning 50 isn’t all that bad.

– Chad Filley is a local comedian. More information on his events can be found at www.chadfilley.com.