Sunday, June 16, 2013

Five Life Lessons from My Dad

My dad has been gone for ten years now.  I think of him every day and today on Fathers Day 2013, reflect on these lessons his life reflected.

1.  He showed up.

He was a self employed, small businessman with no employees other that himself.  He had no sick days, paid vacation or pension plan.  He was a tailor and took in dry cleaning; he made money by threading a needle and sewing.  He did that for over 50 years, buying a home, raising a family and educating four children through college.  I only remember one occasion during my growing up years, seeing my father sick, in bed.  He got up and went to work -- every day.

2. He lived simply and within his means.
My parents had only one credit card -- from Gimbels Department Store.  He paid the bill in full in the rare times that the card was used.  He enjoyed the things of this world -- including cars (his '68 Buick Electra was a source of pride and enjoyment); but they did not control his life.   He was proud that he was free from the burdens of debt, that he was able to pay off the 15 year mortgage on our house in eight years by doubling up on payments.  

3.  He valued education for its own sake and as a path to a better life.  
Perhaps more so because he was an immigrant with limited education, he consistently emphasized to his children (all four of with with at least bachelors degrees) that education is important.  He respected it and any person who achieved through education.  He would be so proud to see what his grandchildren are achieving through education.

4.  He was a feminist.
This one took me a long time to realize.  In an era when most girls still became nurses and teachers, he did not make any attempt to steer me into any conventional educational pursuits.  He allowed me to make my own choices.  On the day of my law school graduation, I still recall his quiet pride.  And when I did not marry right out of college as was the custom at the time, he was content.  Even when I moved out of the house (none of my female cousins did anything like this), he was supportive.

5.  He loved unconditionally.
I remember saying to a friend just after my dad died, "No one loved me like my dad".  I still feel that way.  I think it's true that parental love is like no other.  But my dad loved me with an acceptance that had no strings attached, that was always giving and nurturing and nonjudgmental.  I aspire to that kind of love with my children.  

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