To Fathers Everywhere
We follow leaders on LinkedIn, we watch their videos on YouTube, we read their blogs and take all the information and try to apply it to our own lives and improve our probability of success. But sometimes I think we try so hard to find the best of the best and aspire to be like them so much that we sometimes neglect those who are closest to us, and probably the wisest among us.
Yes, I refer to our parents. We go through phases where we want nothing more than to be with them growing up – in fact, I remember running into a school board and getting a black eye because I was super excited to see my mom after 8 hours… I was 7 at the time (more like 17, but I don’t want to embarrass myself) – to our adolescent years where we want nothing to do with them and they’re super lame –my dad definitely drew pleasure from embarrassing me, I will look into this if and when I have kids too – and finally when we’re mature enough to think they are our peers and end up being our best friends.
Running a household is intense work. My parents both worked and provided a stable environment for me and my sister. My mother is the strongest woman in the world, she’s gone through everything twice and always has a smile on her face and wisdom on the back of her palm, although let’s face it, some of that wisdom is misguided “mom-ternative” facts.. par example, she once told me I’m losing my hair because I text too much after dinner.. seems legit.
While a post about the mothers of the world is on the cards, I’d like to shift focus, with Fathers-Day on the horizon, and honor the fathers of the world and their infinite wisdom they bring to the tables that we may not always recognize.
Growing up, my dad recognized my love for cricket and tried to teach me, not necessarily being able to afford a kit, he salvaged beer crates and a miner’s helmet with a 2x4 to teach me. He told me he was a great player and I ate every word he told me religiously.
I work now and understand how grumpy people can be after a long day, but he always made time for me and my sister to do pointless things and just have a laugh- from the ever so disgusting loud burps to math, he could do no wrong clearly.
My father passed away in January of 2011, and I’d like to pay homage to the man and, at the same time, share valuable lessons I learned from him that still hold strong today. It might be 6 years, but you cannot put a timestamp on the value of life he has passed on, as I am sure all dads have too.
The first thing was financial control. I remember growing up and going to the store and walking past the Lego aisle each week and asking for the super big one. Each week he would turn me down and say I didn’t need it. He’d, on occasions, buy me a small one and ask me to be content with it. The first time he ever talked to me about finances was when I asked for a raise in my weekly allowance, he smiled at me and humored me by asking me to make a presentation and case for the same. Chuffed up with inflation (and the economy, obviously) in mind, I pleaded my case, coke had gone up 25 thebe (Botswana ftw) and I could only get 1 per week instead of 2 now – he said no, big surprise.
What he did do was sit me down, and start talking about the value of saving and I remember this quite vividly. “Whatever your means are, always be sure to live under those and save a little bit. If based on your income you can save $2 a week because that is your level, heck that is $2 saved”. The same way, he asked me to look at families and asked me how there could be wage gaps yet everybody lived happily. Spend on what you want because you only live once, but if you ever need some extra, you use what you saved – but for emergencies only, otherwise, you never touch it.
I won’t lie, I thought it was because my dad was being cheap and holding out on me and called him out. He made a fake armpit fart noise and said that’s all I have to say to you, leaving the room giggling to himself.
I never fully appreciated this sentiment until he got sick and had to stop working. I assumed this would be a short-term issue only, not envisioning the depth of trouble he was actually in. Days turned to months which eventually turned to years. Treatment after treatment, doctor after doctor, the bills were adding up. It had been 2 years and the end was nowhere in sight. I spent a lot of time in college panicking about finances and realized I couldn’t help. When it finally came down to it and he died, I hit a full on emotional panic and broke down.
My mom had stopped working to take care of him years ago and now we were in a rut. I remember my mom and sister in the room talking to me about what was next, and all I could think about was how were going to survive. For every Lego set unbought, that man saved, for every time we didn’t eat out and packed food, that man saved. We ate through life savings through all the dialysis visits and kidney transplant fiasco sure, but he had enough saved to pay for my sister’s wedding and my graduate school in the US – both years after he had passed on. Don’t always look outward for inspiration and aspiration, maybe it’s right in front of you.
The next lesson was radiating calm and happiness. This goes without saying but when times are tough and you don’t always have direction, it shows on your face and in your body language. Maybe you stress eat, maybe you lash out at those closest to you or something else even. But here was a man who I could not differentiate between things going well or things not going too well. Irrespective of his problems, he would always be happy and joke around. It created a feel good atmosphere and took the stigma out of ailing predicaments. In fact, my ignorance as a child would never pick up if anything was wrong, his upbeat nature would always make me feel everything was going to be ok. He always had support but never wanted to burden those around him. How a person who had to go through essentially 2 years of torture and always keep a smile on his face is beyond me.
Psychological aspects of feelings cannot be ignored – it’s like a placebo drug, you think therefore it is. The only time it ever got dark was a week before he went into a coma, he called me into his room and sat me down. He - through a very weak voice - told me that at some point I would have to take charge and be there for my mom and sister. It still brings a tear to my eye because I refused to accept it and rejected all he said.
“Be the change you want to see in the world “. Gandhi’s quote had never held more relevance. There are mitigating circumstances all around us, most don’t even affect us, so why let it bring you down? Do the best you can and always radiate positivity to those around you. It’s the little things that go a long way.
The final thing is to stand up for what you believe in and take pride in your work. My dad was in accounting and boy did he manage the heck out of those books. He took pride in what he did and was unwavering in his commitment towards the various companies and positions he took. The ability to command respect comes from the ability to be humble at your roots. Choosing not to be flashy but be effective, he never lowered his standards and it’s gotten him into trouble once or twice for minor things, but he’d have had it no other way.
All in all, these are very basic life skills that everybody should adhere to, it might not always seem the most glamorous or fun thing to do, but you do the hard work today and as time goes by, things get easier and more comfortable.
In summary, we are all looking to do better and have a positive impact on people's lives. Why not lead by example and elevate yourself to be the person others aspire to be.
- Never underestimate the power of saving, whatever the amount.
- Enjoy life, but always be cognizant that the future is volatile but controllable.
- No matter what the situation, try to bring calm and happiness to those around you. We can never account for everybody’s lives, but let’s make the ones we touch a little brighter.
- Take pride in what you do, keep it simple and effective.
- Know what your priorities in life are and fulfill promises you make.
While I think that special moments are only to be celebrated on a particular day is farcical at best, take an extra minute to call up your dad and just talk to him. Get advice from him and bounce ideas off each other. You can save the world or make a difference seven times over, but it’ll mean so much less to you if you don’t have the right people to share it with.
Before I sign off, an ode to the man himself, one last huzzah. Gone but never forgotten.
It was horrible. It was the end. We sat together with him holding his lifeless hands, crying, dreaming, but nothing would come. He was gone, and we were here. My father, my mentor, the greatest man, the most jovial of people - motionless. The harshness of life evident. I closed my eyes and prayed, prayed that this was God answering, that this was the best for him. I love you dad. I’ll always miss you, and I promise I'll fulfill all you set out to be done. This is cruel but you have made us all stronger and made me who I am today. Thank you.
Till next time y’all!