(Note: updated from my original post in 2014)
My dad’s birthday was last month. He’s now 92. Every morning, he’ll get up by about 6 am and, at least several times a week, he’ll drive over to the rail trail and run about 3 miles before he comes home and works in his garage on the latest carpentry project I've given him, or on his latest batch of homemade wine. Lesson: Get moving, and don’t stop no matter what.
I remember, growing up, that every morning when I came out for breakfast, he’d be sitting at the kitchen table reading the encyclopedia. (For those of you under the age of 45, that’s like a mini Google that takes up a couple of large bookshelves, and cost a whole bunch of money.) Lesson: Never stop learning. Ever.
My dad is part of the Greatest Generation, and was days from invading Japan when Truman dropped the bombs. Born just a few years before the Great Depression started, he was literally dirt poor growing up in the sand hills of Nebraska, finished high school by attending night school, took college courses but never got a degree, and worked his butt off “moonlighting” as a machinist for many years so that my mother could stay home with my brother and me when we were little. Mom went back to work eventually, but together they gave us a good middle class upbringing and a debt-free college education. Lesson: You CAN start with nothing and succeed in life. All you really need is dedication, a lot of hard work, and some time.
I didn’t know till years later that they were nearly bankrupt at one point after trusting their life savings to a couple of white collar criminals. Lesson: Never put all your eggs in one basket, because somebody might steal the basket.
If they had had any debt at the time they definitely would have gone bankrupt. But after my dad led the reorganization of the investors and put the creeps in prison (yay!), they rebuilt from nothing to millionairehood. Lessons: Debt is dumb, justice generally prevails, and it’s never too late to start all over again.
I’ve learned in recent years some of the financial goings-on in the family that I didn’t know or understand at the time they were happening. Like dad disavowing most of a large inheritance in order to make sure his much less well-off sister and her husband were taken care of, in spite of her no-good bum of a son. Lesson: Give till it hurts, and take care of your family, regardless of past junk in your lives.
At one point my mom repurchased a small life insurance policy that my dad had cancelled because they no longer needed the money. When he told me about it recently I was able to teach him the lesson: Women have a strong need for security, and you need lots more communication about money than you might think you do in order to satisfy that need.
So mom’s been gone 6 ½ years now, and Pap as we call him is now blessing us, our girls, and the church big time with the wealth he has accumulated and feels he doesn’t need. Lesson: A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, says the Good Book.
My dad is a good man. Keep on runnin', Pap.