Father’s Day is a day for reflection and a time to acknowledge the impact your father has had in your life.
12 years ago, my mentor and beloved father, left this world. The feeling of loss will be familiar to anyone one who has had such a huge loss. It was devastating. I knew I was fortunate to have had such a man as a father. It was a blessing that I have never taken for granted but, it’s in the years since he passed that I realised, the intentional nature of his parenting, the unconditional love, the wisdom and character that he had in abundance. As a tribute on Father’s Day in what would have been his 84th year. It’s my privilege to share 5 lessons from my father.
i. The importance of structure and order
A sense of organisation was a characteristic, that was at the core of my father’s personality, growing up, we had a timetable for almost everything. Leisure, work, social commitments and homework were all organised with such military precision, family friends were amused at how we were all so orderly. We laughed at the classroom like set up where we did our homework and the carefully orchestrated sense of discipline and prioritisation which I now see was to instil a sense of organisation and order. He was the CEO in our family of 7, and with the family COO created a unit that remembers him with love, respect and gratitude.
ii. Hard work, humour and humility
An orderly, organised and disciplined man. It is interesting to reflect on how balanced my father was. As a family we often reminisce fondly at his ways. Looking back at pictures of him, there isn’t one where he is not beaming or laughing heartily. His familiar chuckle, brought on by his love of comedy, his sense of irony and gift for seeing the humour in most situations, means that we’ve all inherited a sense of humour that has been both a bonding agent and a stress buster in different situations and with different people in life.
I recall him arranging music lessons, setting us up with rich libraries of books and encouraging us to be well rounded individuals. His disdain for laziness, foolishness and lack of discipline would at times reveal a disciplinarian streak that as children we tried to avoid. Later, we would reflect on his ability, to chuckle, cheer and chide with equal vigour. It was heartening to hear others comment on his humour and his sense of mischief.
A lover of learning and proud to hear of our successes, his compassion and support when things didn’t go to plan trumped almost all his qualities, except one. His humility when praised, was utterly charming. I recall having the opportunity to tell him what a fantastic father he was, 4 days before he died, and I remember his gentle humble smile. I am thrilled that in that last visit I was able to tell him that , if I could choose a father, I would choose him all over again.
iii. Turned adversity into an advantage.
After my father’s first stroke, he lost the ability to drive. It was a cruel life event. He loved driving and was enjoying life at a different pace. It would have been understandable for him to become full of self-pity. He did not. He joined a gym, concentrated on a new lifestyle, with a new focus on keeping fit, reading, walking and he kept positive.
Everything about his approach was designed to take the positive from this situation. It was typical of him to be undefeated. He was an optimist with such a sunny disposition that everyone he met commented on his strength of character and determination to adapt to life as a person with disabilities. When asked how he stayed so upbeat he would say ‘I am happy because my family and children are all fine’.
iv. Persevere to reach your goal.
There were times as I approached young adulthood, I was navigating work and life, I remember having an awkward boss, I'd come home with stories about his latest ‘unreasonable act’, I remember one such anecdote and getting advice that at the time, I thought didn’t fully grasp the situation, but he did! My dad was full of wisdom and strategies. His response was a lesson in perseverance and doing what you needed to do with diligence until you could do the things you wanted to do. It took some time to realise he was helping me to develop perspective and a life skill; perseverance and the ability to stick at things no matter how difficult. As a warm-hearted raconteur, he loved telling us tales of how perseverance, kindness, diligence had won the day. To him, difficult phases are inevitable in life, but they can be a learning and development phase.
v. Balance leisure and work
The last decade of my father’s life were characterised, by various health challenges. How he retained his warmth and humour says so much about the man of faith, he was. By this time, mid-career, I had inherited a work ethic from him that meant work life balance was an issue. This led to his guidance that emphasised the importance of work life balance to maintain overall good health and quality of life. My dad also worked with businesses nurturing them to succeed. He was committed to his work. An accountant by profession, he loved crunching numbers and making business ideas stack up with tangible growth. He had a huge sense of responsibility that meant, even after his first stroke, he was back to his office as soon as it was feasible. Several strokes later, he would reflect, that your health and wellbeing should always take priority.
Father’s Day is such a wonderful opportunity to celebrate your father or father figures. I consider my late, great dad, my first mentor and to us a Giant of a man. His values and character are worthy of a book but this year I decided to summarise a little about him as I reflect on the impact of great role models and mentors.