Four years ago today my dad passed away.
While I can’t make my dad out to be any kind of saint, he was a man who I know tried his best at all times and I learned so many lessons from him that I truly cannot count them all.
There are the lessons he taught me from his being a businessman. The important of which was ‘hire the best people you can, then get the hell out of their way and let them do their jobs’.
He taught me to have a love of reading — and to read what you enjoy. Every day, no matter what, my dad started the day with his cup of coffee and the morning paper. Even as a successful business man, he never read the business section or front page first. He always went to the comics first. He said ‘if you can’t start your day with a smile and a chuckle, it will be a bad day’. To this day, I always read the comics first in my paper!
He taught me that often you have to do what is right, even if it is not comfortable or easy. He put himself through college when everyone around him told him he couldn’t ‘make it’ at college. He did a five year work/study program and graduated just in time to be drafted into the United States Army for World War II. He served in the European theater and came ashore at Omaha Beach. He fought in five major campaigns, was decorated with a Bronze Star for meritorious service and for nine months had to be the Graves Registration Officer immediately after D-Day.
He only spoke of his service as a Graves Registration Officer once to me. One night, quite out of the blue, he said he wanted to go for a walk with me, my wife, and our children. A rare, if not unique, event. So we went. After walking for perhaps 10 minutes my father said ‘I want to tell you all what it was like in the war so you will know first hand and never forget.’ He then spoke of the most grizzly work he had to do to retrieve and protect the bodies of his fallen comrades. He told us what it was like to be a liberator of a concentration camp. He told us of the nightmares for years after he came home. He spoke, and we listened, for over two hours. Then he never spoke of it again, but it stayed with my children and me ever since.
My dad also taught me to relax. That no matter what you needed a hobby to give your mind and body a change of pace. I’ll never forget seeing him hunched over a table making enamel-on-copper jewelry and other items for hours on end during our vacations. He also taught me that simple could be grand as long as family was there! Such was the case with our annual family vacations to the small town of Lewiston, Michigan and a tiny cabin on West Twin Lake at Braun’s Resort.
He also taught me to be able to fix damn near most anything! I still cannot smell sawdust or melting solder and not think of the luscious hours we spent together in his workshop.
He also taught me what not to do. He was an alcoholic and it wrecked havoc on our family, our relationship, our lives, everything. But he also taught me that AA can be a miracle to some alcoholics and it was for my dad. He failed at treatment the first time, but lived sober for 20 years after his second shot at treatment. The scars, pain, and anguish still are there, but I also know the signs and the signals so I can try and avoid a similar fate myself.
My dad also taught me perseverance and this was never shown more so than when I earned my Eagle Scout and saw the pride on his face, as he was an Eagle Scout too.
When my dad died, he left a letter for the family. He had written it some time before. But I will never forget it. He was an only child and he spoke of his loneliness at that. He spoke of his parents, both Cornish, and their love for him and their love for their homeland. He spoke of family and his parents. He spoke of his sister whom he lost before he really knew her. He spoke of my mom and he spoke of us. Quite a gift, I will say.
So I say a huge THANK YOU, DAD!
For all the memories, the lessons, the good times and the bad. I learned from them all.
Rest in peace and I am so happy we made our peace and had such a marvelous friendship.
Onward To Our Past®,