Today is father’s day. A day when we think about what it means to be a
dad. A day when we reflect on how our lives have been impacted by our
fathers. A day when we recognize what an important contribution
father’s make to the development of a human being.
So today, I am thinking about the most important lessons learned from
my father’s example. And also, awareness about some of the things I
didn’t learn or understand right away. New awarenesses about the way I
rebelled or misinterpreted or could not “see” reality.
One of the first things I think of when I think about my father is that
he is not a quitter. This characteristic of his, comes to me almost
weekly as I battle through life’s tribulations. My dad does not give
up. He didn’t give up on his marriage and family at a time when divorce
was becoming an easier solution. I had to play out a divorce in my life
before I could really understand the devastation of it. I had to live
it, to learn that my father’s commitment to his marriage and his family
was one of the most valiant demonstrations of love that I have ever
been able to witness. Today I get it. But it has taken me years to
understand the full impact of his example in my life. I had to
experience my own mistakes in this area before I could fully appreciate
his gift to me.
My Dad doesn’t give up. He didn’t give up when the company he began
working for as a teenager, was faced with demise in the form of murder.
The company he began working in as a mail clerk, the one that taught
him how to lead and to become a man, was killed by someone else. A form
of betrayel deep and fatal. But my dad did not give up. He found
another job, he started over. For some, this would have been a fatal
blow. This difficulty might have knocked a different man off his feet,
never to return to employment. Not my dad. He got up, swallowed his
pride, and hit the interview trail. He put in another decade or so, no
longer as “top dog” but as a follower. No longer as a boss but as “the
bossed”. And as I watched him do this, my respect for him grew as my
own repertoire of survival skills increased. Oh, no, successful living
is not about a title. I learned that successful living was about dreams
and about the lessons we leave on the hearts of the ones we love.
My father doesn’t quit. Even as he lost his health insurance after losing his career at the age of 54. With a diagnosis of chronic lung disease, so bad that they thought the only solution might be a lung transplant, my dad was the first of the people in my life to suffer royally at the hands of our current health care crises. It dawned on us, that as he was looking for a job, and health care, that his life depended on finding it. In order to make my dad more employable my mom and dad paid for high risk insurance. They felt if they covered it themselves he would be more employable. It was a hard time for my parents. My mother who had lived a life of leasure for several years went to work. My Dad found a new job. And the two of them paid extra for health insurance. We knew that a lung transplant would not be covered. We knew then, back 15 years ago, that our health care system was NOT the best in the world. But my Dad threw himself over every hurdle. The doctors were amazed at my fathers continued vitality despite his low oxygen levels. They joked that perhaps he had gills somewhere hidden that were processing oxygen outside of his lungs.
My Dad never gives up. When my dad’s employment situation was so
strongly altered by the illegal behavior of someone else, it affected
my parents finances and I feared it would affect their dreams. I feared
it would affect their ability to accomplish their retirement goals or
to live a life worth living. I was so silly to have these fears. My
parents, working together in a marriage that bickered and looked almost
impossible to survive at least one point in my child’s eyes, together
accomplished an amazing feat. The goal was to have a place by a big
beautiful lake. Not just any lake. Not for my dad. It had to be a
Superior lake. It had to be THE most superior lake. My dad fell in love
with this lake, just as my mother did. And together these two people
worked to complete their goals. Today, I see how amazing it is, that my
father allowed himself to love “her” lake. Today I see that a real man
doesn’t need a woman to follow him. Sometimes a real man follows a
woman and loves what she loves. I am grateful that my father did this.
I am grateful that my father fell in love with “her” lake and that
today that lake belongs to both of them and to all of us children.
My father never gives up. It started with an outhouse and a garage.
Some people would laugh at this idea. Some people would consider such a
rustic beginning beneath them. But not my father, not my parents
together. They had a vision, that began in their early fifties, and
through sacrifice and hard work, they were able to create a comfortable
“home” out of a garage and an outhouse. This is the essence of my mom
and dad. This is the essence of their cooperation with each other. This
would not happen without a dad who bends, flexes and dreams alongside
my mother. This would not happen without cooperation and coordination.
Real leaders, real power rests in our ability to be flexible. My father
demonstrated throughout life his ability to lead and to follow and to
know which is best when. He demonstrated that you do what works and you
don’t pack up your toys and go home. You work together. You argue it
out. You give in when you must. You stand firm when it counts. This is
what my father taught me.
My father never gives up. As time goes by, I watch him breath. Each
breath harder for him. His determination haunts me as I imagine the
weight of his continued battle with chronic lung disease. It started
with a diagnosis years ago, one that had us talking about lung
transplants and altered dreams. I am not certain where or how my
father’s dreams have changed because of this disease. But I know that
with this disease, he lost his life time job, found a new one, began
building a home on the shores of a lake, and undertook the goal of
making it to his 50th anniversary. In marking his 50th anniversary he
was able to bring his family on an enchanting and amazing journey. He
traveled it all with us, beside us. Despite this disease. He walked
slower. He rested on occasion, but he never gave up on the dream. He
continues in his path of “never giving up”. I know in my heart that
this quality of his cannot out live him. And yet, it does. It is in my
heart, beating me through each day. It is in his example and all the
stories of his perserverance that will stay with me, and with my
children. It’s the never ending spirit of “the father” that guides us
Dad, I just want to say thank you for never giving up. I want to thank
you for all the lessons you have role modeled for me. It was never your
words, though I appreciated your attention to me in giving them, your
love for me, as you spoke them. No, it continues to be about what you
do, how you continue to live your life each day…that’s what lives on
in me, that’s what makes you special in my life. It’s how you live and
breathe each moment that continues to teach me today. That’s what
speaks to me louder than any voice could ever be.