So, I’m down in California with both my older sister and younger brother. We’re visiting my mom and dad at their new home. Dad, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, is overheard on the back patio reflecting on his life achievements to my brother’s wife. As he notices me walking out onto the patio to join them, he says “…and I had two really great kids!”
‘Ats my dad. Even in the midst of facing his life threatening illness, he can pull out one liners like a Rodney Dangerfield stand up routine.
Rodney, in fact, has been one of my dad’s idols and was a friend of his before his passing in 2004. And much like Rodney, you always know where you stand with Mike Miller.
In an earlier reflective time of my life, I used to complain that my dad had a strange way of communicating that he loved someone. If you’ve been a family friend, neighbor, a high-school friend of mine or have had any other association with Mike Miller in your life, you have undoubtedly been the butt of some joke or pun presented with pin-point accuracy to get the greatest possible roar from the present audience. He’s turned more faces red with embarrassment than Don Rickles and for one simple reason: he loves you.
About 25 years ago when I was getting my graduate degree in psychotherapy, I took my dad hostage for 77 miles on a road trip to a business meeting. We had an ad agency together at the time and we were enroute to pitch a new client. On my high horse and in the middle of a family therapy course I’d been taking, I captured my dad’s undivided attention on a divided road north to Mesquite, Nevada. I had planned this. I was going to use the time to ask him all the questions about his life history that had been unanswered or avoided for my entire life. Enlightened (or so I thought at the time) by my studies and emboldened by the inescapable environment of a late model Cadillac, I pursued him.
During that long hour or so drive, my questions were answered. While I won’t spill the contents of what went on in the car that morning, the stories of his childhood and parents, the tragedy of his own father’s death and the struggles of a young man trying to fill the role of an absent father at age 13, suffice to say, I understood.
People say “I love you” in many languages our unenlightened minds don’t always understand. Sometimes it’s like talking in code. But with Mike Miller, embedded in every witty quip or punchline he throws at you, deciphering minds will always hear the three words that matter most of all.