The only person whom I admire as much as my father is my grandfather.
My grandfather was a great man in many ways. My father is a great man in different ways. My father tried very hard to avoid the mistakes of his parents. He substantially seceded. Together, he and mom raised three children that they can be proud of and also me.
You may never have guessed, dear reader, that I was a difficult child to raise. I tested my parents, particularly my father, on a regular basis. But no matter what I did, he never abandoned me. However, he did let me fall, if that is what I needed, even though it must have been painful to watch. But then he would be there to offer me a hand up when the dust settled.
It is never easy to correct or discipline a child. When I needed it, dad would strongly show his disapproval of my poor choices. Being disrespectful to my mother was not to be tolerated and earned me my most severe punishments. But Dad corrected me with love. He turned external discipline into internal self-discipline and taught me right from wrong.
My father moved frequently when he was growing up. When his father accepted a promotion, it frequently included a move to a different state. Having moved his children from Pennsylvania to Indiana once, identifying with the hurt his two eldest sons felt at being uprooted, my father declined promotions that would require his family to move. Once we were in our home in Marion, we stayed there until the last child left the nest.
Dad always insisted that I have a goal. It didn't matter much what the goal was, so long as I had one. If ever asked, "What are you going to do when you grow up?" "I dunno" was an unacceptable answer. I could change my goal, but I always had to have one. At different times my goal was to become a carpenter, a priest, or a lawyer. Dad explained that the journey through life is much like the journey of a ship on the ocean. It can head to any port, even change course mid journey to a different port, and likely arrive safely. However, a ship drifting without a course will almost certainly founder on the rocks.
Dad taught me that it is much better to standup to a bully and lose than it is to submit. If every time the bully tries to push you around it results in a fight, win or lose, the bully will probably move on to an easier target. I was very proud to learn that my father's nickname at work was "Jack the Giant Killer." It didn't matter if it was a new hire on the line or the president of the company, he never tolerated illegal, immoral, or sloppy behavior.
Dad taught me that I should always be open to receiving better information and discovering that I was wrong. He would often say, "If your only tool is a hammer, all of your problems tend to look like nails." But until you discover that you are wrong, you should never give up, never back down, and always do what you believe is right.
Dad also taught me to be circumspect. Most things in life aren't all that important. You shouldn't fight just because someone has a different opinion. If I was right even 55 percent of the time, I could make over one million dollars each day on Wall Street. He also taught me that being "dead right" was just as dangerous as being "dead wrong." Either way, you wind up dead.
Dad taught me how to be a man. No matter who was involved or how it happened, the fault always laid, at least in part, with me. He taught me to be the first one to admit my faults rather than wait for the people around me to point them out. He taught me that love is much more than a feeling. Love is an action, which necessitates patients, fidelity, and lifelong commitment.
I am closing in on age 44 and I compare my life to that of my father. I look at how he faced incredible adversity, difficult children, bad patches in his marriage with my mom, being "let go" from work one year before retirement, and the myriad other things that he dealt with. I have to ask my self, how will I ever measure up to this great, inspiring, stalwart of a man?