My Dad – Memories and Lessons Learned

My dad was not a man of many words. He wasn’t a man that often taught us lessons with his words. He was a man that silently led us by his example. Over the last few days, I have recalled lots of small memories. They aren’t memories full of huge emotional connection or huge impact. They’re just memories with my dad. But I know that even these “insignificant” memories have shaped me to be the man that I am today.

  • My dad taught me to ride a bike. I think of him when I teach my children to ride a bike.
  • My dad taught me to write the number 8. I think of him when I write numbers.
  • My dad played catch with me in the yard. I think of him when I play sports with my kids.
  • When learning to drive, my dad taught me that the roads are always slickest when it first starts to rain because the built up oil from cars hasn’t been washed away yet. I think of him when I’m driving and it starts to rain.
  • One of my favorite things as a young child was to hear my dad say, “Gravity’s getting to me” as he crawled off the couch and lay on the floor to watch a Chicago Cubs game. I would cuddle up to him and watch André Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, and Mark Grace disappoint us once again. When my kids cuddle up to me, I think of my dad.
  • My dad took us to Cubs games. Once during a Cub game he took me to the bathroom. He and I were using the urinals and all of the sudden he jumped and misfired in the urinal and said, “Whoa”. Citgo had just given dad a pager. He’d only had it a few days. Apparently it was the first time he got a page while peeing. His reaction was hilarious. Yes, sometimes I even think of my dad when I use the urinal.

In addition to these memories, there were plenty of deeper lessons that I learned from my dad. Here are five of them:

1. How to Treat a Woman

My dad never raised a hand against my mom or any other woman. I can’t even recall him raising his voice at my mom. That’s not say he didn’t get frustrated and have heated discussions with my mom. But he had no inkling of causing physical harm or showing domination over her. In the last couple of years, especially as my mom has been battling cancer, my dad showed a newfound care for my mom. Outside of his job, and church-related responsibilities, his life was about fulfilling the needs of my mom. From juicing veggies for her, to helping her do her treatments, my dad was all in with helping my mom. I love this about my dad. Especially because that’s not the example that his dad left for him. My dad’s legacy is one of care.

2. How to “Walk it Off”

My dad’s favorite phrase when one of us boys got hurt was, “Walk it Off”. I remember playing catch in the yard and taking a baseball to the eye. Of course I went down crying. But my dad said, “Walk it Off”. These words were magical. Because as you walked it off, you suddenly felt better. You were able to continue on. Within a few minutes, I was back up throwing the ball again. But beyond the magical powers of those words, I think these words represent my dad well. As life threw him curveballs, my dad would quietly, but assuredly “walk it off”. He had the ability to keep moving forward even in difficult times. By these words he taught his children to keep moving forward. As my children encounter various trials, I hope that I’m also helping them to “walk it off”. To push into relationships, to never give up on people, to not give up on a task or work, to take one to the eye, walk it off, and get back in the game. 

3. Loyalty Matters

My dad kept his promises and when he committed, he committed completely. When I was a kid, the church we were members of, and where my dad also served as the treasurer, decided to get rid of the pastor of the church. When this was going down, I remember hearing a group of people discussing how they were going to deal with it. My dad simply said, “We need to support our pastor.” And that was the end of it. And he was right. Later, as I’ve been a part of different churches, that message has stuck with me. “We need to support our pastor”.

My parents were married for 47 years! Never did I fear that my dad would leave my mom. I knew he was in it to the end. My dad worked for Citgo for 35 years. He was months away from retiring. He didn’t complain about his work. For the last 19 years, since moving from the East Chicago plant, he has loved working with coworkers and the drivers that have come through. 

4. Give Generously, Even When it Hurts

One time my dad was taking some criticism for giving some money to a “homeless” man in Chicago. It was the typical story, the man seemed like a con-artist. And even if he wasn’t a con-man, he would probably use it for alcohol or drugs. Finally, my dad spoke up to the criticism and said, “It’s not my responsibility to judge how the man is going to use the money. God has called us to give. He will judge how they use the money.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that lesson when encountering the poor and beggars. 

My dad would give the shirt off of his back if he saw someone in need. He’s the kinda guy that you had to be careful about telling your situation to, because he might just go out and buy whatever it was that you were needing. The last time we stayed with my parents after coming home from China, we were sleeping on a blowup mattress in the spare room. One morning my wife had moved to the couch because, well let’s face it, blowup mattresses are uncomfortable. My dad noticed this, left the house and came back with a bed.

5. Life without Jesus is Meaningless

My dad didn’t have a lot of hobbies. He didn’t have many things that he was passionate about. He had talents and skills, but they weren’t a driving factor for him. Except for one thing. Jesus. My dad’s deepest and most obvious passion was Jesus. He longed for all his family and friends and those he worked with to love Jesus more. My dad would never stand on a stage, but if he were to, this is what he would say. So, consider this his final message to you: 

  • Jesus, God’s son, came to earth and lived a sinless life. 
  • He willingly sacrificed his life and died on the cross, killed by the religious and political leaders of the time. Betrayed by one in his inner circle.
  • But Jesus was God, and the grave could not hold him. 3 days later he rose from the dead, defeating the power of satan.
  • He did this because the human race – you and me – needed to be redeemed. We are sinful and broken people. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, God could not bear our sinfulness. But when Jesus sacrificed himself for us, a relationship with our perfect and holy God became possible. 
  • You can have a relationship with God. It couldn’t be easier. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

For those who believe already, my dad would urge you to live for the Lord. Just because we believe in Jesus does not mean that it is easy to pursue goodness and holiness. But we must read God’s word and follow him wholeheartedly.