This week is a significant and bitter-sweet one for the men in my family.
It’s Father’s Day weekend, but it is so much more for my father, his sons, and his father.
My father turned 70 a week ago. He is on his way now to visit my youngest brother, who just welcomed his first son and my dad‘s third grandson to the world. Pretty sweet.
Now for the bitter: 38 years ago, rather than visit him for Father’s Day, my dad traveled back home to bury his father.
My grandfather died when I was 10 years old, the Friday before Father’s Day. The day before he died, my dad was trying to explain something to him on the phone, but my grandfather was hard of hearing and couldn’t understand. Frustrated, my dad told him “never mind, I’ll talk to you about it this weekend.“
That was the last thing he ever said to him.
Be a Man
You can’t learn how to be a man from a book.
You can’t learn how to be a father from a book.
And you certainly can’t learn either of these from a woman.
There are plenty of people who will try to tell you that you can, but, once you actually become a man and then a father, you realize how much you just have to wing it and lean on what you learned from your father and the other father figures around you.
So I sat down with my father to talk with him and ask him some important questions about what he has learned in his 70 years on this earth.
There’s a lot of this that we have been discussing for decades often on as situations arise, but this was an opportunity to sit down and really drill down on the fundamentals.
Continuing the Legacy
I started by asking him what he learned from his dad—a man who he described as “honest as the day is long” and a man who absolutely “hated debt.” My grandfather lost his father when he was seven years old and was forced to drop out of school to work, so he definitely was winging it raising seven children as as the depression was ending.
“He was self-employed most of the time that I knew him except for the time he spent driving a truck at night, every night delivering film and concessions to the movie theaters. He would leave at 8 o’clock at night and was home at 4 o’clock in the morning. Then he slept a few hours and then went to work in the field.”
“So we struggled, but we always had food on the table. We had a farm and we had animals. So he taught me how to manage that. From the time that I was old enough to carry a tub of corn or a bail of hay, I was out feeding the animals every morning and milk the cow.”
Father Knows Best
My grandfather briefly owned a bar. For the time he owned it, he financed it through the previous owner. But since that gentleman was a heavy drinker, he often owed my grandfather more than the note on the bar. Despite dropping out of school before he even got to high school, my grandfather was smart enough to know to write that check and have that man endorse it and hand it back over to him every month.
“Always pay your debts and keep impeccable records.”
Regardless of all the hardships he endured, he never used them as an excuse to not pay his bills or to neglect his responsibilities.
The Importance of Faith
My father, like me, was raised from the cradle in a Catholic faith that he always claimed, but sometimes took a little for granted.
But it was especially challenged when he and my mom split up briefly when I was a senior in college. When other men around him took similar circumstances as an opportunity to play the field, he took it as a wake up call to re-organize his priorities and focus on his responsibilities as a husband and father. And he saw a renewal and deepening of his faith as the fundamental element of this answer to his midlife crisis.
“I had a whole lot of things flash in front of me to show me where my priorities had been way off, so I had to play some catch-up.”
The Father of Remodeling
One of the things I’ve always admired and respected about my parents is that, even to this day in their 70s, they have never stopped trying to find creative ways to become better people. They also never seem to be satisfied with the house they are living in because they are perpetually remodeling. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising. They always see what they have as worth preserving and protecting, but are never satisfied with allowing it to become stagnant or fall into decay. And that goes for their home, their bodies, and their souls.
“If you’re not improving, you’re losing.”
We shifted the conversation to the business lessons he taught me during the almost 15 years we worked together.
“Never hesitate to solve someone’s problem when you don’t have to sell them anything to do it. It’s the right thing to do and he will quickly earn their trust.”
As a result of this effort, our customers come to us asking us to sell our wares to help them solve bigger problems.
Poor Country Living
“I would not give when and where I grew up for all the money in the world.“
Growing up poor and out in the on a country farm in the 50s and 60s not only helped mold the man who raised me, but it gave him memories that still bring a smile to his face today. Like riding bicycles 11 miles with a friend at the age of 10 to go swimming at another friend’s pool.
It was a simpler time. But even as they had their own influx of new media and new technology, it wasn’t all bad. Television, at the outset, offered exposure to some valuable resources before it gave way to a lot of superficial and even decadent garbage. Education and entertainment gave way to “programming.”
Speaking of entertainment, we wrapped up our conversation with one of the favorite things I like to hear from my dad: a good Boudreaux and Thibodeaux joke. Growing up in Louisiana, these jokes are a staple, so I will leave you with his favorite Boudreaux and Thibodeaux joke at the end of this article.
Advice from a Father to the Next Generation of Fathers
But first, his words of wisdom for the young man face the next few generations of challenges to be who we were meant to be as men, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers:
- Get familiar with scripture
- Be careful when selecting your mate
- Don’t be afraid to make a commitment when you find the right one
- Turn the TV off, put the phone down
- Don’t darken the doors of a college or university unless you know the career that degree is going to give you will pay for itself quickly
- Find someone you can trust to be your Consigliere when it comes time to make tough decisions. Someone who isn’t emotionally involved in your affairs.
For everything else, if at all possible, ask your dad.
Happy Father’s Day. Now enjoy this joke:
Dear God let me die in my favorite suit.