Submitted by PeterElias on Sun, 06/15/2014 - 06:00

It’s been four years since my Dad died. Sometimes I think of it as ‘only’ four years ago, and sometimes I think of it as a long four years ago.  But I still think about him often and he remains a daily presence for me, through the things he stood for and the way he lived. A few examples come quickly to mind on Father’s Day.

He was always more interested in learning than knowing, understood complexity, and didn’t trust simple answers. This was manifest in many ways. Disagreements or uncertainties were turned into questions and one or more of us children were sent to look things up and report back. About the only acceptable reason to leave the table during a meal was to get a dictionary or encyclopedia. He never let us think that naming something explained it, and told me often that the best answer was the one that generated two new questions.

He made a point of trying to see and understand things from as many points of view as possible. Sometimes to a fault. When I complained that someone said or did something, he would challenge me to imagine at least two reasons their behavior made sense from their perspective. This has served me (and my patients) well.

He was more impressed by effort than success. When I won a science fair prize, his response was:  “That’s great. What’s the most important thing you learned from the project?” When something didn’t turn out well, his approach was to focus on what one could learn from that and how much difference that might make down the road. If you didn’t like something or saw a problem, it was more important to try to fix it than to talk about it. 

When I went off to College, he gave me two fantastic pieces of advice: 

  • Don’t do anything you would be ashamed to have people read about in tomorrow’s paper. 
  • Don’t let your grades be too important. Too many ‘A’s means you aren’t challenging yourself by trying new things and exploring things you aren’t good at.

His core values were to treat everyone with respect, to be honest with himself and others, and to always leave things better than he found them.  

Though our relationship was never easy (and anyone who knew both of us would understand that), I owe him a tremendous amount. Father’s Day is a good time to say so.  Thanks, Dad. Every day is a good time to pay it forward.




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