Lessons from my father
It is, by now, painfully clear there was no Chamber Connection last week. I was in South Carolina tending to matters related to my father’s death on Dec. 30. It is difficult to lose a parent, and the pandemic, coupled with the distance between us, made it impossible for me to be with him as he left us.
Many people have reached out with condolences, prayers, and thoughts, and, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Life goes on. I’ve been thinking of ways to honor my father and the lessons he and my mother taught me.
Here are a few of them:
- Open your heart. I am an adopted child. I was adopted soon after I was born, so my adoptive mother and father are my parents. I have never known anything else. But by opening their hearts to adoption, they gave me a world that would be drastically different without them. Their love, correction, and support made me who I am.
- Plan ahead. My father was a planner. When we had a house once in one part of town that didn’t have many kids my age; he started saving money to buy a home in a different neighborhood. When he wanted to retire at 55, he started saving in his early 30s and developed a plan to find light work after he left the Post Office. He and my mother planned their funerals when they were in their 40s, so I wouldn’t have the burden of all the details as I mourned. He looked ahead and tried to anticipate what was coming next.
- Don’t stop trying. My most defining moment of this was in my youth baseball days. I was the classic “good glove, no hit” guy (and that was probably being kind) as a player. I loved the game, but I wasn’t very good. Our team – Knauer Feed and Grain – advanced to the championship series. In the first game, I struck out five times, the last time with the tying run on third base and after fouling off five pitches. After the game, I was crying because I let the team down. All my Dad wanted to talk about was the sliding catch, which resulted in a double play we had in the third inning. “Mike,” he said, “you played a great game. Don’t stop trying.”
- Be open to new things. I was probably 12 years old when, on one sunny Sunday morning, “Put on your suit. We’re going to a new church today.” As a boy who grew up Catholic, I was amazed to walk into Ebenezer Baptist Church in Sandusky, Ohio, to find I was one of the few white faces. What followed next was not a traditional church service, but I watched my Dad and Mom have a blast while I sat dumbfounded. When I asked him about it later, I learned he worked with the church pastor at the Post Office, and the pastor had invited him to come that Sunday. He told me to try something new once in a while because that’s how we find new things to enjoy. From time to time, we’d go back and we tried a variety of new things when I was young.
- Invest in others. My Dad was a great student of the Bible. He spent most of his adult life sitting in and teaching Bible studies. He did so mostly because he wanted to be challenged about what the Bible says and challenge others. He cared to invest in others. In doing so, it gave him great joy to see them grow.
- Care enough to make tough decisions. When I was in my 20s, I was foolish with money and ran up significant debt. I wanted to come home and stop paying rent. My father refused. He told me he’d help develop a plan to pay everyone back and my rent too. I did – by getting a second job and changing my lifestyle. Years later, he told me that he wanted to see me back home but knew he was teaching me a lesson that would help me for the rest of my life. It hurt him, but he knew what he had to do.
There are a lot more, but you get the point. Thanks again to all of you who’ve reached out in the past few weeks.