Today would have been my Dad’s 80th birthday. He passed away last October and while missing him, I’m often reminded of all the lessons I’ve learned as his son. There were many great eulogies delivered at his memorial, with stories of how he inspired family and friends alike. This was mine:
Dad always told us: “You can be whatever you want to be. Just be the best at it.”
In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I chose an impossible path – I wanted to be just like him.
I’m proud of the immensely interesting life my father led. He inspired me to strive for the same.
Until recently I’ve lived half my life outside of the US — and I know my overseas calling was inspired by some of the early trips Dad brought us on. He and Mom made it a point to take each of us on long-haul trips every so often.
One which was pivotal for me was a trip where just my Dad and I went to London. It was quick – just a day or two. And Dad had a packed business schedule so he asked me to just hang out in the hotel until he got back for dinner.
I must have been ten or eleven years old. After he left in the morning I rushed downstairs to the lobby, and started looking at tourism pamphlets with stuff to do in London. Before I knew it I was out of the hotel and riding the Tube — but it was confusing so I got lost pretty quickly. Somewhere along the way I got myself above ground and discovered the red double-decker bus. I had a great day sightseeing. The Tower of London, Museums, Big Ben – I saw a lot that day.
I made it back to the hotel maybe an hour after Dad did. Of course, we didn’t have cell phones back then – so he had no idea where his eleven-year-old son was, and no way to reach me. I’ll never forget the look on his face. Ashen, but so relieved. He asked where I’d been, and I told him about my day around London. He was a little angry, understandably, but mostly impressed. And after he listened to the whole story, I remember exactly what he said:
“I’m proud of you, Pal… But never, ever, tell your mother about this.”
I’m fortunate to have studied, lived, and worked in 5 countries – so far. But wherever I’ve been, the examples Dad set for us have always been with me:
Work hard. Be kind. Be generous. Be fair. Be curious about the world. Make friends. Give back.
Oh, and try to be good at golf.
He didn’t have much success with that last part, and so far, neither have I.