I remember when I first met my dad. I think I was about 5 or 6, and I remember acting a little like Nikolai, my Scooby Doo-like Husky, when there’s a strange man in the house. What makes it even more noteworthy is the fact that I was almost 3,000 miles from where I was born, in a strange country where people spoke funny. It turns out of course that it was I who spoke funny. And thus begun the story of half my life.
It’s not that my dad was “absent” in the bad sense of the term. It was just a classic case of a dad who didn’t have a lot of interaction with his own dad, and so on all the way back to Adam. Yet my dad spoke highly of his own father: it turns out I come from a long line of hard-working dads, who, emotionally speaking only, put work ahead of family. My dad was the first one to go to college in his family, and he certainly challenged the old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. About 7,000 miles in his case.
Since I grew up feeling that my dad was emotionally distant, we got off to a fairly cold start. Nothing dramatic, but it wasn’t Leave it To Beaver either. Regardless of where my relationship with him fell in the big picture, I chose early on in life to do what every confused teenager does best: blame a parent.
Yes, I had children of my own soon enough, which is when I automatically entered the I will do better than my parents stage. That’s all well and good, but I realized soon enough that trying to beat your parents at parenting is a sure way to set yourself up for a pyrrhic victory.
I had the good fortune to work alongside my father for a brief but very productive period of my life. It was five years to be precise. Five years that were to forever change the way I look at life.
My dad may have been different in some ways, but I‘ll let you be the judge of that. For whatever it’s worth, here are some things he taught me: I learned that being right, by itself, is worthless. If you cannot follow through what you believe in with actions, then your righteousness is empty. He taught me that hard work is indeed its own reward, as long as you value and respect what you are doing. He taught me that consistency will always be important, even while we are bombarded with change at an overwhelming pace.
These are just a few of the great things that my dad taught me. Today, as he grows old, and I realize perfectly well that he and I are on borrowed time, he manages to still deal one more lesson for me… the last time I said goodbye during a visit, as he hugged me at the airport and then walked away, I couldn’t help but notice what was written on the back of his t-shirt:
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” (Aristotle)
Happy Father’s Day.