Happy Birthday Dad
This week I’m visiting my Dad in Oakland, ME to help celebrate his 82nd birthday, and I never stop learning from him. Dad is just a good man. Actually I am blessed with having quite a number of good men in my life growing up, Uncle Frank visited today and I marvel at his capability for compassion and tireless love of others. Visiting Dad is not a time for long involved conversations. Dad is just not someone who talks much unless he has something to say. Casual conversation is not his forte. I think I may have inherited a bit of that trait, and with just the two of us here quiet is the most common state of affairs. Still, without many wasted words, Dad has been a great role model. Though Dad has never been one to give much in the way of unsolicited advice, he has taught me a lot about work, love and life. Here is a list of 10 things that come to mind that are lessons I learned from Dad:
- If it is really important do it now, don’t put it off because you never know what tomorrow will bring. This is an exception to the teaching by example, as Dad actually gave me that advice a few years ago using words! :.)
- In work consistency is key. You cannot have a bad day. Every customer (patient in my case) is important. If you say you are open until 7 PM, don’t close the doors at 6:45 just because it seems like business is slow. The customer who stops by at 6:50 to a locked door may never come back.
- Actions speak louder than words. All through my life I have seen Dad’s generosity, hard work, love for my Mom, and steadfastness. He didn’t give soap-box sermons on how to live, he showed us.
- Be yourself. Live by your values, do the right thing, do what you enjoy. What others think is unimportant.
- Live within your means. Just because you have money or income does not mean you should live a lifestyle that uses all of it. Dad has lived in the same modest home since 1955, and has been happy there. If you are happy where you are will a bigger house, nicer stuff and more toys make you happier? Probably not.
- Don’t argue with your wife. Give her what she wants if possible. I suspect that a key to a long and happy marriage is trying to cherish, support and please your wife. Especially try to avoid unnecessary conflict over issues you really don’t feel strongly about. Mom died last year just shy of their 60th anniversary, and throughout those almost 60 years Dad invariably tried to give Mom whatever she wanted.
- Hard work pays off. Dad worked harder than anyone I know, and the stories of his youth continue to make me marvel. Tom Brokaw calls Dad’s generation the Greatest Generation, and Dad is up there with the more famous members of that generation.
- Make love for family unconditional but don’t enable people who repeatedly make poor choices. Dad loved Mom with his whole being. His love and support for his children has been just as steadfast. He made early career choices to support his parents. He has been the person many in our family have found there to help them in time of need, but when some relatives have needed to be told no, Dad has been able to show his love by not enabling them. I pray that I can come close to his example.
- Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill. Some problems are best managed by benign neglect. I remember a time as a teen when I had to tell Dad about what seemed to me to be a big problem, but obviously he thought differently. I remember being shocked as he lay back in his recliner and just nodded, never even opening his eyes as I told him of my predicament. He was right, it all just blew over, but he could have made things a lot worse by intervening to rescue me or punish me or really doing more than take a deep breath and see how the situation evolved. This was a valuable lesson I remember fondly and have used productively at work and at home.
- Sometimes you just do the best you can in the situation you find yourself. Dad has had incredibly difficult times, a childhood in the great depression, serious challenges in his business career, and supporting a spouse with MS for many years. Dad just kept on doing his best, working his way through difficult times, and never stopped giving his best.
Thanks for everything Dad. Now if I can just live my life like you have taught me I’ll be a better man.