’ve spent a lot of time on the issue of fathers this week. It included clients dealing with the influences of that role (both the receiving and giving side), a dear friend who lost hers, watching my son-in-law with his two ruffians, and perhaps looking ahead to a men’s weeklong fly fishing retreat where—inevitability—one of the most perplexing stations in life is bound to work its way into the cigar- and wine-infused conversation around the fire pit when the sun goes down.
It got me to thinking about the lessons from my own father — some of which have become my own narrative. My father was a street-hardened kid from the Irish slums in Jersey City during the Great Depression. He dug his way out of that squalor of its day to become a senior finance executive with some major companies and later a independent financial planner. He had a way of condensing some practical wisdom into words that still ring true today.
1. If you think it’s come down to “us” versus “them” you’ve become one of them.When you lower yourself to every fight, you are already the loser.
2. Everyone should own a nail set. Sounds a little weird to remember a comment about that little tool that allows you to recess a finish nail in door trim, but as an eight-year-old boy I recall he said it with such conviction that it—and its extended meaning—has stayed with me. Take the time to finish your work with quality.
3. Make people laugh — sometimes they forget how to do it on their own. My father lit up every party he attended with his Irish jokes. At times, I think it was to escape some of his own past sadness, but isn’t that what laughter is for sometimes?
4. Have dreams — just remember you can’t afford to have all of them come true. Sounds a little rueful in today’s “follow your heart” mantra, but the practical courage of his words is a reminder that if we get even a few things we hope for in life, that’s a better life already.
5. Keep your eye on the ball, keep your back straight, swing easy. For the longest time, I thought he was just talking about golf.
6. There are six handles on most every casket. Make sure you have that many friends when you need them the most. It was a full house when those six buddies carried his box up the aisle. My guess is he — on more than one occasion — had made them laugh.