My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
Clarence Budington Kelland, American author
My dad passed away last week. He was 91 and lived a long and happy life. His life was not always easy but he always had a smile on his face and he seemed to take everything in stride. He was well respected and liked and had many friends during his time here on earth. He was a man, not a saint, and he had his faults. But he is remembered much more for his good deeds rather than his minor flaws.
At his funeral mass the priest asked us all to say a word about him. Words like strong, funny, kind, a man’s man, witty, and generous came up. One person mentioned that he always a special light in his eyes. It was interesting to hear what other members of the family thought of my dad. We all had a different perspective.
To me, he was just my dad. The one who brought me home a tricycle on the back of his police motorcycle. The one who called me “Jake”. The one who let me stand by his side and watch as he took apart one of his many clocks and then put them back together. The one who let me help him do the yard-work outside so that I could get out of cleaning the house. The one who taught me how to ride on the lawnmower even though my mother was sure I would cut my foot off. The one who believed in me.
My dad was not a showy person. He found it hard to hug and yet I never doubted his love. He served in WWII but he never talked about it until his grandson sat him down and interviewed him. His grandson went on to write and direct a movie and credits my dad’s story’s for his his inspiration. He eventually rose to be a detective in the Rochester Police Department but he never boasted about it – in fact he rarely talked about what he did on the job. Every morning he got up, ate breakfast, got dressed, strapped on his gun and went to work. No big deal, no big fuss. And yet, I know he was the only one in the neighborhood who needed to strap on a gun to go work.
As an adult I realize that he was always living in his integrity. He had a “code” he believed in and he lived his whole life that way. I don’t remember any “lectures” he gave me but I know that much of what I believe in today came from him. I realize now that my core beliefs came from watching him. Watching him help out our neighbors. Watching him at my Aunt’s farm helping to build a barn or harvest the corn. Watching him cry when our dog died. Watching him be of service every day in his job. Watching him smile and be content with whatever life sent him.
He was my dad and I will miss him very much. All of us who knew him will miss him very much.
So…You don’t really have to “tell” your children anything. You just have to live your life in your integrity. Live the life you want your children to be. It may not seem like it at the time. but believe me they are watching and they will learn. I know I did.
Have some fun today!