Lessons from Dad
I really loved my father. If you read yesterday’s post, you know that today would have been his 88th birthday – but he died back in 1978 when he was 55. He was 30 years older than I am and really tried to do what was right in raising us. As a child, I did not see Dad much. He was always working – he worked in downtown Chicago at Tribune Tower Building, and I remember going down to his office on Saturdays to do my homework while he finished his work for the week. I even remember when Marina Towers, one of Chicago’s architectural landmarks was built – 1964, I think; and I watched them go up from my father’s office window overlooking the Chicago River.
By the time I had graduated from grammar school, Dad had gone out on his own, and needed my help every evening after dinner. So, for my graduation present, I received typing lessons! I learned who his clients were, and typed all the correspondence my Dad used to dictate to me. I actually became quite good, but what I really learned was how my father conducted business; and how much he cared for his clients and vendors. And this became a cornerstone of our relationship; something he taught me, that I have remembered the rest of my life. I hope that people today feel that they are important to me – because they are! I used to spend many hours with Dad being trained to understand how people think and how you can best serve them.
Years later, much of this came back to help me as I took over the company when Dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was a difficult time. Our competitors were trying to crush us, and Dad and I, along with our staff, were trying to survive. We prevailed, and the company took off. And the lessons that Dad taught me became the framework that I built my own companies on. And, throughout the years we have received our recognitions as well. But it all started during those evenings near 107th and Western Ave. on Chicago’s south side, when I typed every night after dinner.
And the personal side of my relationship with Dad was even better than my business relationship. When we were young, he invented games for us to play in the yard, and I remember one 4th of July when I modified a flying saucer firework and it ended up heading toward Dad as he was sitting in a chair on the back patio. It actually hit him in the chest, burned a hole through his new shirt, and he ended up with rather serious burns on his chest. He was angry with me – no doubt about it; but he also complimented me on my ability to aim the projectile. What’s a 12 year old kid supposed to do with that?
And, God love her, my mother always spent more than my Dad could earn. I even remember one fall when my mother went shopping for winter coats for Doug and me. They were ghastly expensive – Mighty Mac brand as I recall, and Dad hit the ceiling. So, instead, he loaded us in the car and drove us to Robert Hall, a plain pipe rack type of warehouse store that sold lower end clothing. Dad directed us down the aisles and picked out our coats – 10 minutes at the max, and we were on to check-out. Mom was so stunned she never said a word. We got back in the car, with the coats on hangers covered with a plastic bag, and Mom started to cry as Dad backed out of the parking space. He stopped, turned to her, asked what was wrong, and through her tears, she said that she was concerned her boys “would be cold” this winter. As upset as Dad was with the huge expenditures on our clothes, he pulled the car back in the space, got out, returned the inexpensive coats and got back in the car. Nobody said a word – and that was the first, and the last, time I ever saw the inside of Robert Hall.
He had a soft spot where my Mom and we were concerned; even if he couldn’t afford mother’s expensive tastes. But, like so many other things in our young lives, this event made an impression. And that brings me to tonight’s verse, from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” And that is exactly what happened with my father. I hope I have honored him in the process.
My encouragement tonight is to remember that some day you may have a son or daughter writing a blog like this one, and God wants you to be the best parent you can be. He will be with you every step of the way to accomplish this goal. And parenting is tough work; so my prayer is that God will give you the strength to see your task through to the end, and that even as you advance in years, you can still train your children as a model of Christian behavior all the days of your life. Happy Birthday, Dad! I tried to do you proud.