In honor of Father's Day I wanted to share this post that I wrote after my Dad's funeral. Father's Day is so hard without him and I've been feeling it, so I thought about the best way to honor him and decided to share some of the things he taught us over the years.
There are so many things I learned from my father over the years. My friends always said Dad gave them the best advice (especially when it came to relationships, career, and raising kids) and after his passing we heard from numerous students of his who shared his impact on their lives as well. In fact, we heard so many great stories about how Dad made a difference in the lives of students who had gotten a “troublemaker” label about how he showed he cared and made them see they had a lot more to offer. Hearing how he impacted several people to turn their lives around was so inspiring.
As many of you know, Dad was the inspiration for my teen character, Landry’s, father, Mr. Albright. Landry always turns to her dad for advice when she doesn’t know what to do because that's what I always did. I’ve had a lot of readers and book reviewers comment on the “wise advice” and “wisdom” in Best Friends…Forever? and Landry in Like on how to deal with frenemies and friend issues, stress, school and that’s all due to the great insight Dad shared over the years. Since I share so much of his wisdom in the series about dealing with friends and other people (the man really knew his stuff on relationships and friendships!), I thought I’d pick just a few other things to share with you about Dad.
*Follow your passion, not a paycheck. Too many people go for the paycheck, but at the end of the day you have to ask yourself—is that enough? Is what you're doing going to help people?
Dad often wondered if he should have stayed in counseling because he wanted to help young people find their way in the world and guide them, but we now see how he had a bigger impact helping the kids who needed guidance the most in his school system due to the messages we have received from students who said, "he took the time to really listen to me and not just punish me like everyone before him had," "He cared. No one else had, but he did and I turned my life around."
*Always keep your word. Your reputation is so important. Keep your commitments and your word.
After he passed, the last thing I wanted to do was admin work and keep up with interviews and commitments I had made prior to his hospitalization. No, I wanted to hide out on my couch with a big bowl of chocolate coconut ice cream and cry. But I knew that wasn't honoring what he taught me, so each day I have gotten up and handled the admin side of my career because you always keep your commitments.
*How to unclog a toilet. To show you how impressive he was as a toilet “un-clogger,” he taught me how to do this over the phone.
*Always say a prayer. However, he told me this might not be enough to unclog a toilet and that I may indeed need to use a plunger.
*Listen to people. They tell you everything you need to know about them if you just take the time to really hear them. And sometimes people just need to be heard.
*Always wear a scarf in the winter. Some of this was for protection from the cold, but let it not go unnoticed that the man knew how to accessorize. That gleaming white scarf and black fedora were always on when he went for a walk around the block.
*Let people make their own mistakes. If you offer unwanted advice then they become defensive. When I confided in him about a friend who was engaged to someone who wasn’t right for her, he told me to just nod and let her do all the talking and not bad mouth the guy. He said she’d eventually come around to realize that it wasn’t a good situation. It was hard to hold my tongue, but he was right.
*Take time to appreciate art. Mom and Dad went to art museums a lot when they were dating and he and I had a great time at the Detroit Institute of Art a few years ago. He loved museums and learning about history and different cultures. He also jumped at the chance to see any plays or shows I got free tickets to as a journalist.
*Buy quality clothing. My dad was my favorite shopping buddy. He knew all the best places to buy designer stuff and get great discounts. We never saw him in jeans. The most dressed down we ever saw him was when he wore a sweatsuit on days he was taking a sick day from work. And even then it was a Christian Dior sweatsuit—no joke. He even mowed the lawn in nice pants and a golf shirt. Even now I find I can't giveaway any of the clothes we bought together. There are memories there.
*How to make…wait for it…goulash. He taught Mom how to make this and later, me. He could also make a mean cup of hot chocolate.
*Education, learning, and books are always good investments. Dad was always buying us extra books to help us write papers and essays for school. There were several history classes I took in college and grad school where he read all the books I was assigned and even the ones I bought extra as research for my papers. He kept stacks on the tables in his “man room” of all the books from my classes and also the ones I got for review for the newspaper that interested him. He often read the books for my classes before I did and then he’d suggest topics for my papers. Some of his favorite books were on WWII history, books on Mary Queen of Scots, Bloody Mary, and Queen Elizabeth the 1st, several of the Popes (especially Pope Pius XII and John Paul II), and baseball biographies on Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, and Sandy Koufax.
*Stay current on events. I got my love of the news from Dad. Growing up we had at least two new daily newspapers coming in a day and he’d watch all the news shows (as well as the boring stock shows. I can hum the Wall St. Week theme song). He also read all the news magazines at the library. When 9/11 happened, Dad was now working in real estate with my mom and he was on a house tour. He was in a separate car from my mom and she told me that everyone in his group came back to the office saying, “Who is Bin Laden? Bruce says he thinks Bin Laden is behind this attack—who is he talking about?” I knew who that was because I, a news junkie like my dad, had been reading up on the U.S.S. Cole attack because he had been discussing it with me.
*Show up looking professional. Naturally he wore a suit and tie when he worked as an assistant principal, but later in real estate he would do open houses and he always wore a jacket and tie. The other guys mostly wore golf shirts, but Dad wouldn’t hear of it. And he always wore a jacket and tie on appointments or even going to the office for paperwork.
*Treat everyone the same. Exactly the same.
After Dad passed, my cousin Ben commented that Dad’s lessons and words live on through the impact he made on his students and how his advice lives on in the Landry’s True Colors Series. I never thought about that when writing--I just thought, Dad would know how to handle this situation and now it makes me smile knowing another generation with be impacted by his advice. He always wanted to help young people find their way in the world and now he still will. ♥♥♥