the father i never knew
Posted on 14 June 2012
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.