My father, when I think back on him, always lived his convictions. I can’t think of any hard discrepancies between what he said and what he did.
He did not make all the best choices, no one does.
But he was always available to me if I needed him, as a mentor and life coach. He never handed me anything without expectations or responsibility accompanying the gift. If I got something from him, it was earned. A good sales pitch was always required before getting anything. I was damn well prepared with good reasons to argue my case.
Making requests from Dad was never easy; he was a Chicago trial attorney. But Dad was sharpening my skills and preparing me for life. I learned to do my homework, and fight for what I desired, with good reason.
He expected me to take good care of my things, and waste nothing. He taught me how to spit shine my shoes once a week for school. I took good care of my stuff. Dad expected it.
Dad was most generous and supportive when it came to assisting me with educational support. Learning was important to him, and in turn it is a life-long passion of mine. He was an avid reader, always sharing newspaper clippings with me about stories on economics and national interest in particular.
He was a self-made man, a son of immigrant parents, one of four brothers. He put himself through college and law school and was practicing law before he joined the Marines in WWII. He said he chose to volunteer for the marines because he desired to enter the fight.
“I chose the Marines because I wanted to know that the man on my right and my left wouldn’t run out on me in battle,” his words.
He was present at the battle of Iwo Jima as a 3rd Division Marine. He did not share many stories with me, but he was always respectful of his time in service and his comments about his comrades.
His most cherished possession was an original print of the famous Iwo Jima flag raising negative from his shipmate, photographer Joe Rosenthal. He carried the photograph with him all his life.
Dad was born at the turn of the century, and lived through the depression years as a young man. The depression made a lasting impression on him. He was frugal and taught me the value of every cent earned.
Unfortunately he and my mother separated before I was a teenager, and he moved into a little box of an apartment around the corner from the house he bought and built.
It was a bitter and contentious divorce that dragged on until my mother’s early death just over a decade later. I never received a definitive answer from my mother about why she chose to separate from him. Dad didn’t have an answer for me either.
Over 25 years separated them in age. Ironically she died at 53, 4 years before he took his own life at 83.
My father lived his convictions, in my observation, and never abandoned his responsibility to his two children.
“I’ll never run out on you kids,” he repeated time and time again. He kept his promise.
Two of his favorite sayings echo throughout my life. I can hear him repeat the phrases in my mind, over and over again. It is simple, yet good advice.
“Always stick to your guns,” he said.
As a battle experienced WWII marine, I understood his comment in both its literal and figurative sense. Dad didn’t know surrender, until he choose it on his own terms. He was a Marine in the true sense of the word.
I carry his advice with me and relay it to the many college students I counseled over three decades. I also coach my kids to “focus and finish” what they start.
“Actions speak louder than words,” is another phrase Dad often repeated.
As a boy, then young man, and now father in the autumn of my life, I understand the simplicity and richness of Dad’s advice.
I am thankful he repeated it so often. Dad’s advice was at times directed toward me. Often it was a comment about others, my mother, and life in general. In any case, the philosophy stuck.
Some people easily speak what they know others want to hear, or mouth a desire without the self-discipline to accomplish it. We must be alert for such discrepancy.
I am also aware of my own tongue’s discrepancy with my actions as my father’s voice arrives still nudging my conscience along.
The simple phrase is a philosophical immune system necessary for deployment particularly by people with high integrity and forthright behavior, who may erroneously assume others share their own proclivity.
Semper Fi, Dad.
Copyright © 10AUG17 by Steven A. Schwab