I’ve downloaded a book recently into my iBooks. The Last Lecture: Legacy Edition and I am just beginning it. It is is a good read thus far but I had to stop for a moment and think about my own dad. You see the author makes the point that he won the parent lottery and he gives examples of his parents’ upbringing in shaping the person he is.
I think about my own dad. It could not have been easy for him. How many times was he faced with choices he had to make? Working at the paper mill the union went on strike and my dad with them. He’s questioned that decision ever since. I do not know how hard it was for the family to make ends meet during that time, a tribute to my dad’s tenacity in taking care of his family.
I remember him always having a quiet patience about him. It was said that he had a great temper but this is wrong. He got angry like anybody else did. Yet my dad’s anger was usually based on deep principles. What was so unsettling to some people was that when my dad’s anger did come out it wasn’t that it was wild and out of control, for I cannot remember it ever being as such. It was that the source of the anger was ideas that were rock solid and when faced with this a person quickly realizes that their own feelings was like the wind blowing against a mountain. My dad is a mountain. In pagan philosophy I would say that he is the Earth element, the direction of North. He is stone, the steady Polaris, the bare facts of the matter.
My mother was a desert sandstorm with her emotions. They came out of nowhere and blocked everything in sight. She could get angry for anything, or nothing, and she did not understand the idea of loyalty. It was about her. As I’ve begun my work in working with people who are on both sides of abusive relationships, I see how controlling and abusive my mother really was. And as I learn more I grow to respect my father even more.
My dad was always laughing or joking with people. I can easily bring up memories of him speaking kindly to someone in a store, on the road, or laughing with all of his body at something someone said. He was a hard worker, the hardest worker I have ever met, and demanded that people put in their effort as well. Yet he also knew that life was not so simple as to mark us into groups of those who work and those who are lazy. He was a charitable man and gave of himself for others.
I cannot bring up a memory of my mother laughing an innocent laugh with nothing more than joy.
My dad’s example has propelled me. I am often told I am a stand up guy, or a selfless person, or a hard worker, or a person willing to fight a worthy fight if the cause is just, or that I am kind to strangers, that I am a goofball. All of these compliments given to me are in fact behaviors modeled by my dad. While I am different in some regards, my character is born from the day-in and day-out example that my lived through hard times and good times.
Newton said that he stood on the shoulders of giants. I have not changed the world for the better (yet), though I’ve made a difference in a person’s life here and there… for the better I hope. Yet if it can be said that an interaction with me made all the difference, or if I do contribute something of greatness to the world some day, I will smile and point to my dad and say I stand on the should of a true giant. He lifted me up.