He had similar thoughts with regard to me.
It happened before the private Facebook group, the best-known secret collective this side of the Illuminati, listed simply as Dad Bloggers, had been clicked into existence—let alone over a 1000 men strong. The group, however, would be created shortly after our exchange, with Oren at the reins and slightly off my radar, because words had been said, publicly, between us, and at that point I cherished the idea of an online nemesis more than whatever the hell was behind door number two.
The argument took place on Twitter, which is really all of the perspective that anyone needs. Oren had said his piece, repeatedly, about a project I held dear—he thought little for it and was quick with his reasons. I was proud of what it was, not to mention that it provided for my family during a time that need for provisions pushed long past the want.
It is easy to be defensive when you feel that you are right, and we both saw the ease of it in the words of the other.
Time passed, and the dad group grew. My inbox filled with friends and invites, but I sent my regrets and remained aloof, an outsider, the blatant continuation of pride that I wore through college as a Goddamn Independent (GDI) and still lives today every time you don’t see me wherever mobs are sold.
Who needs a community when there are sock drawers to rearrange, pots to boil, and grass to grow?
I arrived in Houston fresh from the sea. I had spent seven days on a cruise with my family, and reached shore an hour south and a day late to the Dad 2.0 Summit. When I walked in the door I was sun-warmed, relaxed, eager to read, and hoping for breakfast.
I found Oren in a doorway, with nothing between us but for the glow of health and the great unknown.
“I’m Oren,” he said in way of a greeting.
“I know,” I replied, because that’s what you do.
We stood there for a moment. It was 2013 and time allowed for such things as awkward pauses and the slow fall of silence. There may have been a montage.
I don’t recall who drew first, extending their hand for lack of an olive branch, or who took the chance to place an open arm around the other, but I remember standing there in what I can only describe as hopeful embarrassment, taking the measure of a man and all of life for granted.
“The Internet is stupid,” I said.
He replied with a nod and a beard full of smile, and we entered the bustling room before us, filled as it was of mutual friends and those that we love—all of them in fluid motion, unaware that the clocks had stopped and their steps had been frozen. Nobody knew but the shadows that fell away behind us, slow as they were and partial to fading.
That may seem like an odd story to tell in Oren’s final days, but it is the only story that is mine to tell. There will be much written about a good man doing great things, and deservedly so, but ours was of a nature less grand, and all the more meaningful for it.
History is built upon the wounds we mend, and ours were shallow, foolish, and quick to heal. I joined Oren’s group of merry men and found in it a way to bridge the gaps between the real life encounters of conference and junket—an open place where small groups can do big things and large groups will dissect the littlest of details. It is a group loose with humor and argument, generous with advice and support. There is a lot of love in the room, and you can feel it.
When Oren was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in May of 2014 the group responded. It was a weeknight going into a holiday weekend, people were offline and doing the things that unite the unplugged, and a donation drive was created to provide the Miller family with a vacation before Oren started treatment. The goal was $5,000, and it was surpassed—nearly doubled—by early morning. At last check the total was somewhere in the vicinity of $35,000.
This year at the Dad 2.0 Summit in San Francisco the inaugural scholarship fund, still fresh and clean from helping its first ever recipients, was renamed in Oren’s honor, and there were words and tears and everything you would want in a bittersweet moment except for answers and cures for time. We stood in a ballroom in the middle of the morning, and we clapped until we looped the echo, our eyes red and far from dry. The hugs were tender, warm, and knowingly sober.
Those are the things of legacy, and Oren has cemented his; however, when I think of him and the struggles he has seen, it is not the dad group that comes to mind, inspirational as it is, but his wife and their two small children. It is the strength they have shown and the strength they will need. It is knowing how much Oren loves them. I have nothing for the Miller family but respect, hope, and gratitude, and a wish that I could help in any sort of way.
The memory is there, forever framed by spotlight: Oren in the doorway, a smile on his face and his hand stretched in greeting.
It is a moment that I am happy to have.
Oren Miller passed away today, February 28, 2015. He will be missed, and he will be remembered.