I’m a lucky guy, that is for sure. My dad was there and intimately involved in my life from Day One. I was super blessed. Still am, actually, as my dad’s still around.
But growing up especially, he was there for everything, and I mean EVERYTHING: Soccer, judo, YMCA Indian Guides, homework, family vacations, basketball, track & field, football, wrestling, rides everywhere…he was responsible for so much good in my childhood.
As I got older, he was always the “cool dad” (especially since he was a high school teacher and a coach) and my buddies liked him. He had good relationships with a lot of them, which gave me a whole additional perspective and dimension to appreciate. He would talk music with us, mention Led Zepplin, and his Cool Status increased even further. In fact, even when my brother and I were both grown men, dad’s cool factor continued. When a bunch of us rallied to see the Canadian rock band RUSH, dad went with us, one of the guys.
He was just this constant presence of support and encouragement and good in my life. As a father myself now, I understand the importance of this effort even more acutely.
When I consider everything though, it wasn’t his Cool Factor, or his support, but a fundamental lesson he came back to again and again. What did I learn above all else from my dad?
NEVER GIVE UP.
I was mostly insulated from his life trials and tribulations, and his successes, really. He was just my dad.
I know he played college tennis. He coached and played until he was well into his 60’s. I know he was a pretty good golfer. I saw some of the sports’ competitiveness that drove him when I was an adult, when we go out for a casual round on the links. I know his dad died at a young age, when my father was a teen. That might have shaped the kind of dad he wanted to be.
For me growing up, he was just always there. He was there at all the games, after practices, supporting my other extra-curricular activities, and of course, helping with math homework (he taught high school algebra, trigonometry, and adult education too, for nearly 40 years). He did the same for my younger brother. And that lesson came up all the time: NEVER GIVE UP.
I learned how to run distance with his guidance, and work out before school, and do homework after dinner, and get my chores done, and mow the lawn (crisscross, both ways), and shoot baskets, throw a football, and a baseball too. I always felt his support, his calming influence. He kept me in the game of life, taught me to get up again and again , to work harder, to not give up. Ever.
He buoyed me as a child to build my skills and confidence. When I was in the throes of adolescent struggle, he kept me going forward. He taught me not to lose my motivation, to reset my attitude to good, to try again the next day, even as I faced challenges and many failures.
NEVER GIVE UP.
He might not have ever said that to me, but that’s the lesson I took away. That’s the lesson that sticks with me today. Keep going, keep trying, stay positive.
He did such a good job that more than thirty years later, as I’ve watched him struggle in his final years, I’m trying to give him that energy back: Look on the bright side, enjoy the things you can, never give up a good outlook on life. This is the only one we have on this earth, after all.
Gotta make the most of it every day. NEVER GIVE UP.