Curated Leadership for Today's World

the father i never knew

Posted on 14 June 2012

ctjcharicature1My father, the late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, said that he knew Abraham Lincoln better than Lincoln’s own mother. He made this bold statement due to the amount of material he read that Lincoln himself had written. I thought this comment was a bit exaggerated (how could anyone know anyone better than their own mother?) until I found myself in a similar situation.

I traveled extensively with my father growing up. He took me with him on his business trips whenever possible and throughout summer breaks from school.  He was 36 years old when I was born so he had made his mark in the insurance industry and was off on his own as an entrepreneur publishing and motivating. At 18, I left central PA for 28 years to see the world and find my own place in it. During the decades I lived away from home I saw my father at meetings, over the holidays, in print, or on video.  I knew he was successful at what he did, but I was off to earn my own stripes.

I returned in 2009, three months after my father had triumphantly entered the gates of heaven, to pick up where he had left off. Since then, I have had the poignant pleasure of going through every note, piece of paper, doodle, airline ticket, and journal he had ever written. To say I know my father in a whole new light is an understatement. My father always loved the written word because he said it had no tone and passed no judgment. You took from it what you needed to hear.  It spoke to your heart whereas people had a tendency to speak to your ear.

The same is true as I go through his mountains of material. There’s nothing he hadn’t said to me in person, but now I get to read it for myself without any childhood moods, teen angst, or adult drama. As I sift through the piles I see how he hustled to get his speaking career off the ground, often speaking for free or to very small audiences. I see first-hand how he would always look for local churches, schools, and prisons wherever he traveled so he could go there after his paid speech was completed. I see how he met each and every person before and after each speaking engagement to thank them for their smile and to give them a hug.

He worked so hard. He dealt with so much rejection. He was such an encourager to so many people. He was so authentic. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, when he was 70 years old, but that didn’t stop him from living the next 10 years at a pace and with a passion not previously seen. I remember him telling me that the 70’s were the best years of his life. And there again I was sifting though letters, and articles, and speeches all validating exactly what he told me.

He pushed until his last breath. He ran the race like I could not imagine someone would. I know this because I saw his last written letters scribbled from his hospice bed.

I am so glad I got the chance to know my father in a way I never had before. I finally understand so much of the father/daughter dynamic and what he was trying to do with his life through the business. And although I miss him desperately each day, the fact that I get to read about him over and over again as I go through his material makes it seem like he’s not even gone.

On this Father’s Day, for those of you whose fathers have passed on, there’s still the chance to get to know them in a way you never did before. I can honestly say that I know my father better now than when he was living.

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13 comments

  • Dixie Gillaspie: February 20, 2016

    What a loving, and fitting, tribute for a Father’s Day. My father left the earth 26 years ago, also after having been diagnosed with prostate cancer 10 years before. I spent the last few months as his caregiver and met a man I’d never known. So blessed to have had that experience. He was a man of few words, and he seldom wrote anything expect his log book, but the wordless communication we shared then has kept me reminded that he isn’t really “gone.” It also reminds me to take care for the mark I leave on those I’m with today against the days when they will no longer see me in a physical form.

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Yes indeed! So tremendous we forget they are not physically here:-) That’s quite the legacy. Thank you for sharing Laura.

  • Laura: February 20, 2016

    Ten years after his passing, I still can’t quite fathom a world without my Dad. As recently as last week, in NYC, after a particularly great day, my instinct was – “wait until I tell Pop about this!” — even going so far as to reach for the phone…before I remembered… Here’s to TREMENDOUS fathers!

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    You are most welcome Deborah. Thank you for reading and sharing your comments. I am thankful your partner has realized the incredible importance of being a father is in your son’s life. I’m sure you’ve both written them securely in his heart:-)

  • Deborah the Closet Monster: February 20, 2016

    I was and will likely never be close to my father, which makes me all the more appreciative of the kind of father my partner is. The love he shows our son inspires me. So, too, does reading this post and wondering what kinds of tangible pieces we’ll leave behind for our son. Whatever they are, I hope he’ll be glad for the reminders we’ve left behind. (Goodness knows I’m leaving behind enough of ’em! Write, write, write.) Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Wow, Dixie, I did not realize we had that in common. I also got to spend weekends with him during his last two months, as I flew back and forth from Saint Louis. It was a blessed experience I will never forget and am so thankful for it. Thanks so much for sharing that about your father and how he touched you in a deep way as well. You said it perfectly, “take care for the mark I leave”. Here’s to our fathers who linger on strong, long after they’ve departed this earth.

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Mike, that is a great way to put it. And I love “jacking everyone up”. Definitely a gift he put to tremendous use:-) Thank you for all the encouragement you’ve been to me thus far on this journey. It’s because of folks like you that are stilll committed to transformation here on earth that we are able to keep on keepin’ on!

  • Mike Sparrow: February 20, 2016

    Tracey: Just having the chance to catch up with my favorite bloggers. Thanks for the piece about “Charlie T”. He always reminded me of someone looking through a pile of notes, going “nope that’s not it”, and going through hundreds until he would finally smile and say “Yep, that’s it!” If you looked at the notes he tossed aside they would have written on them the word NO. Charlie, until he got to meet with the Lord, was always looking forward disregarding the negative and recognizing the value of finding that one nugget of truth (Yes). He was truly unique in his ability to always remain positive. I imagine heaven is a better place because he’s jacking everyone up. Thank you for keeping his memory and importantly his work going.

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Thanks Mark, regarding your “wonder if we ever really lose that stuff” I couldn’t agree more. Not sure if we ever really get to truly appreciate someone or know their true self while they are “with” us. Just so much of our humanity tends to get in the way:-) And it is such a joy to see how “small” my Dad started and worked, worked, worked up until then end. So encouraging to me to know that’s even how the greats have to do it! And it’s a never ending process! What a beautiful description of how your father has changed. The Holy Spirit changes us in ways we could never begin to do:-) So sweet he hugs and kisses now. Whatever you Dad did or didn’t share with you in writing, he sure as produced a living legacy in your Mark, and that’s more than all the words in the world!

  • Mark Armstrong: February 20, 2016

    A Tremendous post, but gosh, when you write ‘em, they can’t help but be… : )

    I laughed when I read how you finally got to “hear” your dad without the “childhood moods, teen angst, or adult drama”— ain’t it the truth! I sometimes wonder if we ever really lose that stuff… : (

    I loved the part about how your dad wasn’t afraid to start small, and always made it a point to acknowledge people and thank them for coming. You just can’t beat that kind of example.

    My own dad will be 88 in July. He has dementia, is in assisted living, is in good health, and has his good and not-so-good days, mentally. I envy you in a way. He was always rather reserved, and certainly hasn’t left a written record. He’s a good man, but I’ll never know him the way you know your dad.

    Still, he changed in a surprising way over the past 10 years or so: he hugs people now, and kisses them on the cheek, and tells them he loves them. I know there are people who would point to age and dementia to explain that change, but I prefer to think the Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways.

    Beautiful post for Father’s Day, Tracey— many thanks! : )

  • ab exercise equipment: February 20, 2016

    Excellent article! We will be linking to this great content on our website.

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  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Tremendous Bishal, thank you so much for your comments and the fact that you are sharing the legacy of hugging. May you be richly blessed for the encouragement and love you are passing on to others!

  • Bishal Sarkar: February 20, 2016

    Charlie is the smartest man I have ever seen.
    You are a proud daughter. I am his proud student.
    I wish I could meet him in person and get his hug too.
    But now……I can give his hugs to others….

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