Today is my dad’s birthday. He’d turn 67 years-old. This morning at breakfast I mentioned his birthday to Waverley; she wondered what theme his party is up in heaven, which both warmed and broke my heart. “Perhaps a fishing theme,” I told her. His party is actually probably creeping around the boys’ hunting trip (my brother went, too) and hopefully facilitating good luck for them. My dad loved Alaska as he was a commercial fisherman in his early years and always dreamt of coming back. He was excited when we moved here as he saw many fishing and hunting trips in his future.
Despite growing older myself these days I often want to reach out to him and seek his sound advice. I am constantly wondering what he would do in a given situation or what advice he would give me. He always had the best advice: it was usually simple yet profound, obvious yet inspiring. And with a voice similar to James Earl Jones, every word hung in the air as the listener digested his thoughts. In honor of his birthday I’ve curated the eight most impactful lessons from my dad:
- It is what it is. This was by far his favorite quote. Growing up, I never quite understood this and would roll my eyes when he said it. Now, it resonates with me completely. I just say “it is what it is,” shrug my shoulders, and move on.
- Every day is a good day, some are just better than others. This was another of his go-to one-liners that seemed to encapsulate many thoughts. My dad taught me the importance of gratefulness and appreciation. He was always thankful for his blessings, regardless of how small. This mentality is difficult to truly execute, but I am reminded to do so daily with him in mind.
- Make time for life’s pleasures. My dad loved to fish and play golf. Towards the end of his life, he did not have as much time for these activities as he would have liked. We always think we have more time! He didn’t, so I am reminded to make the time now because life is too short for many people.
- Give generously. If you knew my dad, you knew he was one of the most generous people. He sacrificed so much for his family, gave constantly to charities, and welcomed anyone into his home. Even when he had little to give, he gave anyway.
- The Golden Rule. My dad built a successful small financial planning business. When I was in high school, I asked how he did it. He said, “I simply treat others the way I would like to be treated, with honesty and respect.” This response has stuck with me, especially given his field. He didn’t play games, he was not passive or insidious. He was straight-forward, to the point, and always had other people’s best interests at heart.
- Still waters run deep. My dad was calm, cool, and collected. He was quiet, yet when he spoke everyone listened. He taught me how to remain calm in times of stress, to compartmentalize in order to get things done, and to choose words wisely when speaking. He fervently listened and spoke only when he had something productive to say. He was not boisterous about himself or malicious when speaking of others. However, he certainly was not afraid to cry and had such a sensitive soul.
- Above all, family comes first. My dad came from a large family (he has 3 brothers and 3 sisters!) and instilled the philosophy that family takes priority. Generous hospitality is not an option; I grew up with the notion that our doors were always open and an extra seat at the table was always available.
- Take care of your body. In the most tragic way possible, I learned the importance of taking care of one’s body. Regular health visits, exercise, and avoiding toxins are imperative to living a long life. Like so many people of his generation, my dad smoked on and off for decades. This habit lead to lung cancer and eventually ended his life. No one is invincible.
The picture above is the last picture I have with him before we knew he was sick; his diagnosis came approximately two months after this was taken. (Waverley was one month old and we’d just arrived in Oregon after our cross-country drive from Maryland. This was the first time he met her.) One never knows when the last picture will be the last picture!