Lessons From My Father

A somber week of reflection, for sure…but sometimes that can be a very good thing.

Two years ago today, my dad passed away. He was a young guy, only 61, and he died far too soon. As I have grown older, I have come to understand the lessons that he taught me and I now have a much fuller appreciation for what he left me. I have not been shy with sharing my feelings on my blog, but it will probably take more time for me to process my relationship with my father. For now, I would simply like to honor him by sharing a few of his truisms with you.

“A man must have a philosophy to live by, otherwise he is lost.”
Fairly literary, but Pops was a well-read and very smart guy. He told me this several times. As a kid, it didn’t matter much to me, but as I progressed through college, I started to get it. It wasn’t so much about having a moral compass, but about defining your worldview and sticking with it. I would later find myself sharing this advice with a few of my high school students.

“If I’m not pissing you off, then I am not doing my job as a father.”
Needless to say, I was not a happy subscriber to this mantra. When I share this with people, I often get a raised eyebrow. At first blush, it doesn’t seem that healthy an approach. In reality, it wasn’t so much about creating anger (although teenagers are hard-wired for that go-to response), but what he was trying to share was that parenting meant lighting a fire under your kid’s ass. It was about motivation. And that he did!

“Better a smart ass than a dumb fuck.”
I can thank my father for training me to have a quick, witty response to any situation. Dad could bust balls with the best of ‘em. He had a smart sense of humor and he loved to tease and I certainly have an affinity for that as well. Ask any of my former students. The greater meaning to this saying of his is really quite simple: be informed. Dad read two newspapers every morning, and books in the afternoon. If you don’t know what’s going down, it will go down right on your head.

“Sunday is the best day because of no mail. If there is no mail, then there are no new bills.”
I don’t really need to explain this one, do I?

“Baseball is the only sport where the defense puts the ball into play.”
I suppose that there is a metaphysical concept that could be pulled out from this, but let’s keep it real for today. Pops was a huge baseball fan. It was everything to him. Being from Detroit, he was a Tigers man, through and through – but he did have a soft spot for the Cubs. If I was ever at a loss for a gift, I knew I could always get him something baseball related and he would be happy. He could watch a game and predict every play. He could see the whole field and understood every nuance. Just an elevated understanding that is beyond my words today.

“The Rolling Stones changed my life.”
Specifically, the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” He never explained to me why it changed his life, but in my mind, there are two possibilities. One is the cultural timing of the song, 1965. I think he would have been about 17 years old when the song came out. It was the mid-60’s, and the cultural shift of that time is well known. He certainly embraced it. There’s also the possibility that the deeper lesson, of finding meaning and contentment in the internal as opposed to the external, which leads me to…

“I don’t want to be a slave to my possessions.”
Ok, now he didn’t say this to me directly, but it was something that he shared with my stepmother when they first met. How many of us are slaves to our possessions? I can’t say that I am a free man. Not completely enslaved, but not free either. For several years, since the nation buckled under the greed of the big banks, Wall Street, and the rest of the insufferable 1%, it’s clear to me that if more people felt as my father did, we might not be in the shit house we are in today. Corporate America has us convinced that we need the bright and shiny toys, and is more than happy to let us sell our souls to have it.

“Proper planning prevents poor performance.”
Ok, I love the alliteration aspect, but this is still a completely “Dad” thing to say. Sure, it’s great advice, but total lecture material ☺

In mind, as I thought about writing this post, I pictured a richly written piece that would deftly invoke a strong portrait of the man. It’s way more concise and direct and not nearly as poetic as I had envisioned. I guess I will have to save that for my memoirs. I can’t take a thousand words and do anyone justice, especially a complicated guy like my father. These are but a few, and I have no doubt that as I grow older I will understand him in an even greater sense. Today, I will honor him by playing some of his favorite music as I reflect on his kindness, loyalty, wisdom, and intelligence.

Today’s playlist includes Pink Floyd, Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones. If you have a chance, give your dad a call today. I’m sure that he’d like to hear how you’re doing.

And if you’re pissed off at him, and really don’t care to call…remember…he’s just doing his job.

35 thoughts on “Lessons From My Father”

  1. Great, blog. Your dad must have been an awesome person. I lost my mom in 2004, so I can relate to appreciating words of wisdom she left behind. My dad is still here. Thanks for the nudge, and reminder to give him a call.

    Best,
    N

    1. Thanks for your comments! He was a great guy and I am sure you understand when I tell you that I sometimes I can’t believe that just pick up the phone and call him.
      Thanks so much for reading my post today :)

      1. Yes, I totally understand! You’re so welcome, and thanks for stopping by my site!

        N

  2. Concise and direct it might be, but this is still a beautiful tribute to your father and the lessons he taught you. I lost my dad about five years ago (too young for him and for me) so I definitely understand the desire to live up to those sentiments and do right by someone who is no longer around to smack you on the head until you do. And you’re right; on days like this it’s better to celebrate the person’s life, not mourn their loss.

  3. Thanks for letting me into your pop’s thoughts. A very intimate share to keep his spirit alive. Nice to see you had a learning relationship. Sometimes love isn’t just enough. We need to learn as well.

  4. I lost my Mother back in 2000 due to complications from Multiple Sclerosis. She was one tough broad and anyone who knew her marveled at everything she did. I know she is still around in some capacity and things she taught me, even as a kid, are still with me today. It’s great you can take some life lessons in what you were taught. Some aren’t so lucky :)

  5. I grew up without my father beside me because of my parents’ divorce. When I turned 16, I looked for him and found him. I struggle with establishing a stable relationship with him. I didn’t know him; he didn’t know me. I’ve always been scared to lose him again.

    Your post has inspired me to be honest about these things with my dad. I will give him a call. :)

    1. Wow Rigel, your words would have made my father proud. He and I had many difficult years, and in the final months of his life, we spoke quite a bit.

      There were things that in my youth were very painful, and it wasn’t until many years later that I was able to understand. I am moved by your comments, thank you so much for sharing them with me.

  6. Outstanding! My father passed away six years ago. Let me tell you, I still think and write about him all of the time! I love your post, and much of what you said resonates with me. God Bless them, and God bless us for being their children!

  7. Your father sounds like he was a very strong person with character… thank you for sharing with us, it must be extremely hard yet relieving to go through the memories…

    1. It is, and will be for some time. Scanning the pictures in for that post was hard, but what people have written me since has been so incredible, that I know that I honored him by doing so.

  8. What a lovely tribute. It really spoke to me. I lost my mother in 1993, when I was barely into my twenties. Now that I’m a mom, all these years later, I feel like I am becomong her. I love your blog, and thanks for visiting mine.

  9. I like your blog and style. I’ve self-published two books and my third is on the way. I’m trying to publish my other book through the traditional paper route…keeping my fingers crossed.
    This post touched home. My dad has passed away also and I recently wrote a poem about it, “Your eyes.”
    The things that fathers teach us can never be taught by anyone else. Very touching.
    Thank you.

    1. Chrissy, thanks a bunch for coming over and checking out my blog. Publishing and self-publishing are transforming, and both are exciting to me. One hope I have is that the self-publishing adventure will lead to other opportunities with established publishers (big or small).

      It’s all about getting it out there and not having it sit on the computer or in a box.

      I’ve received so many kind words after writing about my father, and I think that he is very pleased to see that his truisms have reached a larger audience.

      I followed your blog today, and I am looking forward to checking out your work.

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