Today would have been my dad's 80th Birthday. He was a football star, a loan officer at a bank, an avid fishermen, and a genuinely good man. His humor and laid back demeanor made him a pleasure to be around. At his funeral, elderly men came to me with tears in their eyes saying that my father had been their dearest friend. Some told funny stories about wild college parties, mishaps on fishing trips, and practical jokes played decades ago. Others shared how his generosity blessed them. A tailor who immigrated from Mexico with his family said that no one would give them a loan to open a new business when they arrived in the U.S. My dad, however, took the time to get to know them and made the loan. The business and family thrived.
My dad taught more by example than with eloquent speeches. Here are some lessons he taught me:
- No matter how wonderful or painful your past, the present is where to put your attention. Old stories are fun to recount, but keep creating new ones.
- Invest time, energy, fun and heart in true friends. The return on investment is worth the effort.
- Whatever happens, just roll with it. The phrases "I have a hangnail" and "the car caught on fire today" would get about the same reaction out of him. He approached life with a calm pragmatism that readily accepted what is (sometimes with a few expletives for good measure) and then moved forward.
- You're never too old to act silly. I remember watching him put on my old Halloween mask of The Cowardly Lion, wrap a blanket around himself, and roar and play with our dog Skippy, who wasn't sure if it was really a lion or dad. Personally, if I were Skippy, I would have bitten him either way.
- The more seriously you take yourself and life, the less you enjoy it. My dad was always joking and being mischievous. When I was a baby, the police detained and castigated several neighborhood kids for shooting off fireworks illegally. They were particularly harsh, however, with the one adult in the gang: my dad.
- When you can't do what you used to be able to do, enjoy and celebrate what you still can do.
- Live in such as way that at your funeral, the tears flow just as much from laughter as from sorrow.
Thank you Dad for all you taught me. I miss you and love you. Happy Birthday!