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Lessons from My Dad: Preface and Introduction

I have started working on writing up "Dad's Life" and was thinking to have it ready for the 30 day mark after his exit from this world (as that, according to Jewish tradition, is a propitious time for comforting the soul of the departed).  But I realized that there is so much to my Dad and that it is would be a shame to rush through it.  On the other hand, I also don't want to lose the freshness that comes from the sharp emotions I am feeling right now.  I have decided to have my cake and eat it, too; I'll recount now some of the main lessons I learned from my father and over the year work on a more complete record.

So that's really the first thing: have a goal and make sure your actions are consistent with that goal.  As a little league coach he expressed that in words by constantly telling us to keep our eye on the ball.  In action, he expressed that by balancing everyone's innings.  It didn't matter if you were the start first baseman or Roger, who "played" right field.  Roger, by the way, once stole a base by strolling from first to second.  The other team, who had never seen anyone so clueless, just watched him in stunned amazement.  (He tried it from second to third, but by that time the team was over their amazement; the pitcher walked over and tagged him out.)  We rarely balked even when the star first baseman was pulled (he'd played his innings for the day) and players rotated to different positions to get Roger into play.  If anyone did, Dad reminded him we were there to all play; not to win. Dad always had his eye on the ball.

Dad would never help me until I had read the instruction booklet.  I once got a toy that wouldn't work, so I took it to Dad and told him it must be broken.  He said, "Did you read the instructions?"  I, of course, said, "It's a toy, it must be broken!"  Dad didn't budge, so figured the only way to get him to take me to the store and get my toy replaced was to read the instructions.  The first line said, "Remove cardboard tube used for shipping."  Honestly, that was the last time I argued about reading the instruction book for anything.  That lesson has very obviously been a cornerstone of my life.

Dad felt things very deeply, but he made a conscious effort to make decisions based on logic.  He was very much distressed by people who "ran on emotion".  The truth is, of course, Dad's feelings and passions tended to color his logic (like all of us).  None the less, his openly stated intent -- and his constant instruction to me -- was to base decision making on logical consideration.  Many feel I have taken that lesson a little too far. (Ok... a lot too far.)

As far as I know, there was only one person who really didn't like my Dad.  It isn't important who that was; but what is important is that person told me, "One thing about your father; he is the only person I ever met who can really change when he needs to."  The admiration, despite the dislike, struck a deep chord in me.  In fact, I witnessed four major upheavals in his life.  The situation demanded change, and Dad was up to the challenge.  I've heard some say "it is what it is" when the hit difficulties in life.  Others say, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  If my Dad had tried to capture his view on dealing with life's difficulties in a phrase, it would have been, "Hey!  These lemons are pretty good!"  The way he reacted to situations that demanded a new approach -- effecting real and lasting changes in himself -- has made a very deep mark on me.

You don't have to win every argument; even when you are right.  Dad told me that innumerable times over my life.  It really goes against my grain.  I tried (unsuccessfully, of course) arguing the point with him.  I have also had many, many life experiences that prove him distressingly on target regarding that point.  Let's just say I know he is right and that I am still working on myself.

Dad was unabashedly  the friendliest person I have ever known.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the people who didn't like him.  On the other hand, I couldn't begin to tell you all the lives he touched with his warmth and humor.  I will never know, because everywhere he went, Dad made friends.  It didn't matter if it was on a two hour plane flight or a long time customer; everyone became Dad's friend.  He often told me that it is good to have a lot of friends, but a few very close friends.  Over the years, it seems his circle of close friend kept growing; he loved people.  A friend of mine (one of the precious few) recently asked my why I couldn't be more like my Dad.  I'm trying.


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