My dad's high school English teacher wrote the following on his yearbook cover:
You have a future in journalism!
Miss Ludwig was an excellent judge of talent, but her prediction proved to be wrong, for my dad set his sights on something else. Fresh out of college and recently married, he had all the markings of an entrepreneur: ambition, drive, passion and an intuitive business sense. Maybe a touch of chutzpah as well. He borrowed a few thousand dollars to launch a manufacturing company that would be the first of many successful ventures over a long career.
As his business grew, he experienced both the rewards and challenges of being a sole proprietor. Clearly, there were times of stress and disappointment as well as intense satisfaction. There were demands made on him, contracts to settle, conflicts to deal with.
All I knew, as his daughter, was that my daddy was the funniest and kindest man in the world, and when he came home in time for dinner every night he was all about us, his family. I don't remember him ever working in the evenings or on weekends.
He was a doting, affectionate, hands-on dad, always.
But back to journalism.
So, he didn't become a professional journalist. His oeuvre is pretty much limited to the occasional letter he sent me at summer camp or a funny poem for one of my children. I have kept every one of them.
Like any gifted writer, my dad is a voracious reader, and we share an affinity for the well-crafted story. As I grew older, he introduced me to the works of John Updike and John O'Hara, two terrific authors who hailed from our little corner of Pennsylvania, and a third John, John Irving, whose writing and character development we found remarkable.
My dad enjoys sharing articles that he knows I will like. Recently, he cut a story out of The Wall Street Journal about a girl who loved horses (I always have). If there is a thought-provoking article in this week's The New Yorker we will discuss it. An opinion piece by one his favorite columnists in The New York Times can inspire a conversation.
My dad and I appreciate the beauty in many forms of art, and literature is one we almost always agree about. We can marvel over a cleverly-strung phrase with as much gusto as we admire a painter's canvas or a sculptor's carving.
If I am my father's daughter, it is because we can lose ourselves, and find ourselves, in great literature.
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