A Lifetime of Lessons in Ten Years

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Dad and the baseball team. That’s him in the front row, far right.

We only shared space on the planet for ten years, but those few short years I had a dad made a tremendous impact on little me. After my dad passed away, I spent too much time focusing on how my father’s passing affected my life. I was preoccupied with what my life would be like, and who the other me would be if my dad had lived longer.

After a while I realized it was much more conducive to remember how his life shaped my life, as opposed to how his death impacted my life. It’s much more fun to think about all that was added to my life by having a wonderful dad for ten years, than to dwell on what was taken away when he died. It took me many years to get to that point, but at least I got there.

Which brings me to Father’s Day. How do I celebrate Dad’s life rather than mourn his loss, on special days when I can’t help but think about him? Of course, I think about my dad every day, but it’s still important for me to commemorate him now and then, in special ways on certain days like Father’s Day.

My dad loved baseball, and he loved the Atlanta Braves. One of his favorite past times before he passed away was “jogging,” as the “new exercise craze” was called back then.

So it seemed appropriate to commemorate him on Father’s Day weekend this year, as the 30th anniversary of his passing approaches in July, by participating in the Father’s Day 4-Miler Race at Turner Field! It was such a fun run!

We started outside the stadium, ran around some of Atlanta’s oldest in-town neighborhoods including Grant Park, and we ran by the Atlanta Zoo, which was a bit smelly for a run. We then looped around back to the stadium, where we ran in through the tunnel, entered Turner Field near first base and finished the race after running to home plate, with a (very small) crowd of spectators in the seats cheering us on.

I think my dad would have loved it. He loved the Braves before the Tomahawk Chop and Turner Field. He loved the Braves when they were in the generic, now non-existent Fulton County Stadium. I wish he could have been here to run it with me or watch me finish. Hopefully he could “see” me, somehow. I often feel like he’s with me, so perhaps he was yesterday too.

Shortly after the race yesterday morning, I drank a beer. It doesn’t matter what time of day I race, a ceremonial beer (or two) is consumed afterwards. There’s nothing like a cold one after a run, another life truth my dad taught me. He would let me have a sip of his beer when he’d get home from his run. Yes, I was a kid, but it was only a sip, don’t judge! And it’s one of my favorite memories of him.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived, and he let me watch him do it.”  – Clarence B. Kelland

More importantly, while my mom constantly informed me of my many flaws and limits, my dad always tried to help me see that I could do, or be, anything I wanted, as long as I put my mind to it, and worked hard at it.

How did he teach me this? He lived his life.

My Dad was the son of very poor Hungarian immigrants.   His parents, (my grandparents) were uneducated and didn’t even speak English. My dad grew up in a very poor neighborhood outside of Saint Louis, Granite City, Illinois, where his dad worked in the local steel mill, and meals often came from the backyard supply of chicken and vegetables. In spite of this, dad achieved the American Dream. Dad worked his way through school by joining the Army. He became an officer in the Army and member of the corps of engineers, graduated from college, became a civil engineer, a homeowner, and a father of four. He was a patented inventor, and business owner. All with little to no financial support from his parents. He did it on his own.

It makes me proud to have had him as my father. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect, but to his ten-year-old daughter, he certainly was.

More:

Father’s Day Thoughts: Who My Father Was

Who the Other Me Would Be