I Fear Losing My Father

Growing up I spent a lot of time trying to differentiate myself from my father. I should have spent time emulating and learning from his success.

When you are raised by a father who was very successful, it is a bit like living in his shadow. From a very early age there is this great burden that compels you to live up to the remarkable standard set by him. This shadow can blind you from your true path as you try to escape it for your own individuality. I strived to differentiate myself from him when the whole time I always wanted to be like him. It even led to me pursuing a career path that I would not have enjoyed. I feared others would think I just took the easy way out by taking a job working with my father. This turned out to be hilariously untrue as this job is extremely difficult, but a worthy endeavor.

Fortunately, I realized that my happiness was more important than the opinions of others, so I switched majors after one semester. Partially because I absolutely hated everything about my original major, actuarial science and partially because I was close to flunking out. I owe it to my father for handling this situation remarkably well. For a couple months I knew things were not going well and I was lost. One very hungover morning, my father showed up and took me to breakfast at IHOP. This was well before this burger IHOB nonsense. Well, as I sat there the conversation turned to my schoolwork, so I flat out told him. “Dad, I think I am going to be on academic probation. What do I do?” I feared anger and disappointment, but all I got was calm and rational advice. He told me I could transfer to an easier school or buckle down and get my grades up. Maybe switch majors.

Well, the first option sounded like losing to me, so that fired me up. Up until that very point I was feeling defeated but now I had something to prove and my competitive spirit was renewed. I am sure my father did this on purpose as I look back on it now. The thought of switching majors never occurred to me so this is where a father’s advice is priceless. I had a bad habit of attacking problems head on when it would be wiser to try a new approach. The following Monday I went to my advisor to figure out how to switch majors. I struggled in almost every class I took: physics, calculus, Spanish but not economics. I never had economics in high school so I never really thought of it as an option. Turns out I loved it and decided to change my major to that. I still remember my advisor asking me to write out 500 words explaining why I wanted to change my major. So, I wrote like my career depended on it and pour my heart out. When I hand it over, my advisor looks to see that I put something down and tossed it to the side without reading it. Lesson learned. I was approved instantly providing I could get my grades back up. I went from a 1.80 to a 2.60 in one semester.

You don’t always realize what your father has done for you until you think about the possibility of losing him. I know it will happen one day, and being the oldest son, I recognize that I’ll have to control my emotions when that happens. Because I will be responsible for looking after the family. My father is rather stoic in that he seldom complains or boasts. I know he does a lot to support all his kids and his wife, but he never tells me these things. I’ll have to figure it out someday, because I’m probably the only other person in the family with a good financial sense. Then these thoughts begin to make you wonder. What about my kids? They’re young, but I need to somehow begin to prepare for that day when I die. It’s a heavy load and life insurance is only a stopgap to pretend like the problem isn’t there.

I had an amazing father growing up who instilled a plethora of great habits…. And maybe a couple less than great ones, but I like to think that is part of my charm. We talk to each other just about every single day. Sometimes by text but typically by phone call. He did the same thing with his father when he was alive. It wasn’t a shock when he passed and he lived a great life, but it does change your perspective a bit. Every day we get older, but once your grandpa transcends into the next life and you bring a new son into this world, you feel significantly older. A sense of responsibility takes over and a weight is added on your shoulder. Suddenly you are responsible for carrying the torch so that your kids can rise to their potential.

I always felt like a kid, even as an adult. Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m never late on a bill and I work hard at my job. I was always called mature for my age, especially as a child, but a couple years ago I bought a couple fidget spinners for myself. Including this awesome one that has little Mjonir hammers on it. It is so easy to say these things like Fortnite or Youtube personalities are dumb, but they are reaching the kids. I prefer to at least pay attention to what they are interested in, even if it isn’t as entertaining as GI Joe or He-Man. My Father taught me that it was ok to be a kid at heart. He used to ask the girls that he coached what they were going to do when they grow up. When some would inevitably respond with “I don’t know yet.” He would dryly say, “Yeah, me either.” It’s funny but there is a wonderful lesson hidden behind the laughter. The happy at heart really never do grow up. Because the best of us are always growing and changing. Do we stop being a kid and become an adult at 18 or 22? No, time is just a construct… man. It really is though and as you grow up, you’ll reach a certain age where you have a minor freak out. For me it was at 22 when I started my first real job handling large business deals and giving out advice that may make or break a family business. I remember sitting at the local dive bar and just thinking, whoa, pretty much everyone is just winging it. We’re all a bunch of kids that got tall. Then you drink another beer, laugh at a dirty joke and go play another game of pool. When you understand that no one really grows up the world makes a lot more sense.

I’m glad I grew up when I did because I was able to pay attention to seemingly mundane parts of life and learn valuable lessons from them. So many kids today are constantly immersed in their phones that they are going to miss these types of lessons. I remember driving around in the car and my father would take work calls all the time. It taught me how to talk to people and how to handle problems. After a few years of managing people, the stress of these problems become manageable and insignificant. My father taught me a lot about perspective. I saw his entire industry nearly go bankrupt back in 2008 and the whole world just kept spinning. I would ask him what would you do if your company went under? He told me that he would probably golf more. Perks of living a life below your means. You become free to do as you want. We always had a nice life growing up but it was never extravagant. He would buy a big TV and some sports memorabilia every so often, but he drove his cars until they died and didn’t worry about keeping up appearances. These choices leave a mark on kids as they grow up. Recently I had an AC unit break and it cost $2,500 to fix it. So many today are living beyond their means that this would be a disaster. I had plenty saved up and paid it off with no concern. C'est la vie.

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I am fortunate enough to have a stable job but I constantly watch people complain about money while they sip on their daily Starbucks milkshake or talk about their vacation on a cruise ship. My father taught me to prepare for emergencies like the AC breaking. He taught me to not flaunt wealth because then leachers will come out of the woodwork with ideas or sorrow stories. He taught me to stay in shape and to not sweat the small stuff. He was honest and lived a life that he was proud of. If someone got mad at him, he wouldn’t waste his time proving the guy wrong or even engage. He was too busy focusing on his family, career and lately golf. There will always be people who don’t like you, but if you can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day, who cares about them? So many people waste time and energy on insignificant problems. If it won’t matter in a year, why lose sleep over it? He taught me to spend time around successful and driven people. And to avoid people who gossip about small matters, because those people have nothing better to do with their lives. He taught me the value of hard work and that it really does pay off if you work smart. He understood the value of time and family. He always worked hard and occasionally long hours, but he almost never missed my sports games. If not for his example I would be clueless on how to raise a kid, so for that I am eternally grateful.

Father’s Day is a very strange holiday to me. I always tend to forget about it until my mom starts asking me what I want. I’m honest with her though: nothing. What could I possibly want or need after all my parents have provided for me. I never really know what to get my Father either, because as I realize now, he is just like me. He doesn’t want anything materialistic either. He just wants me to be happy and successful. I’ll want the same for my kids and the cycle will go on as it has for generations.

I’m not ready to lose my father yet, and fortunately he is reasonably healthy. He exercises often and says he eats well, but I think we have different ideas on what constitutes a healthy diet. Still…. I’m not ready to lose my father yet, because I’m not worthy of replacing a man who set the bar so high.

Go spend time with your father while you still can.