With four kids of my own now, and having turned forty years old last year, the life lessons that my father taught me when I was a child are becoming clearer. They were not overt, in your face, lessons. That's not my father. He was more quiet, steady, and as I'm realizing now, taught me through example and simple words.
In all the years I can remember, my dad never took a single sick day at work. He was never too tired or unable to take me somewhere. It never occurred to me as exceptional at the time. But now, with young kids of my own, I know there had to be so many times that he didn't feel great or had a pounding headache when he came home from work to three kids begging for his attention. He just never let us know about. He never complained. He just steadied on. Maybe he did what I do now and reached for a glass of wine as soon as he walked in the door, and then tried his best to give his attention. Whatever it was, it didn't matter to me then, but it does now.
My grandparents were immigrants to this country, and my dad grew up with less than we had. He stressed the importance of education even though he himself didn't have the same opportunity. I remember when I was applying to colleges, I applied to one elite school that was a stretch for me to get into. I asked him, "What if I get into the school but don't get a lot of financial aid. Would I have to go to the state school instead?" My dad said very directly, "No. We'll find a way to pay for it". I had no doubt he meant it. He would have taken another job, mortgaged the house, and made sacrifices to make it happen. It turned out I didn't get accepted to the school, but I never forgot what he told me.
My father didn't always say a lot. Talking was my mom's department. But when he did speak, his words had impact. I remember a time we took a trip into the city. I was probably an early teenager. As teenagers do, I made an offhand remark about someone doing a particularly unappealing job, a parking attendant or something like that. My dad took offense. He told me to never, ever degrade someone who is doing an honest job, working hard to make a living.
I remember these lessons now and try to pass them on to my own kids. They are growing up with more than I ever had, in large part because of the lessons and examples my dad gave me.
Thank you, and Happy Fathers Day, Dad!