|Joseph W. Maley: Layman philosopher and Hall of Fame father|
Today is Father's Day and having been blessed with a Dad who is destined for the Father's Hall of Fame on the first ballot, I feel obliged to share some of the lessons he's taught me. My father has a unique voice and a beautiful command of language (though what language we've never been quite sure). Some of his sayings are borrowed, but he always manages to make them his own.
"You'll see someday (gruff laugh)... you just wait."
Joey Maley warned me that my children would revisit upon me, the worst of what I've put him through. My son's not even a teenager yet, but I can see what he was getting at. However, I also see a wonderful, respectful, talented and loving child, who I'm sure benefits every day from the secondhand fathering he receives. I am grateful for his wonderful example.
"You plant apple seeds, you grow apple trees."
This was usually used as a slight to someone when they married badly and were having problems with their ill-fated offspring, but it reminds me that you get out of something what you put into it, another cliché my father favors.
"People who are born round, don't usually die square."
My father taught me to accept people for who they are and decide whether you want them in your life, rather than undertaking the futile task of changing someone. Over the years, it's saved me a lot of wasted energy.
"I should have never got rid of that car"
This one took me a little while, but once I got over my vanity, it served me well. My Dad had some real shit boxes over the years and always regretted letting go of a car that would reliably start. Now I own a five-year-old Civic, one of the most sturdy vehicles ever made, and I'm happy to say I don't have a mechanic.
"You wanna dance, you gotta pay the band"
There's a price for everything and it should be considered before you take action. And if you make a bad choice, take your lumps like a man -- own it. In the end, the way you take the rough patches says more about who you are, than the way you accept the easy ones. Anyone can celebrate good fortune, but it takes a man to keep his head up when he's down.
"What's gonna happen?" (followed by a slow and deliberate shrug)
My father's most admirable quality is his unshakable ability to shrug in the face of life's most challenging moments. He always has a way of putting something in perspective and helping you see that things aren't as bad as you think and not much is really going to change, no matter how they play out. We don't put people in jail for owing money and if your number comes up, worrying about it isn't going to change anything. Most problems really aren't as big as they seem, and if we are powerless over them, there's no need wasting energy worrying about what comes next, because it will come regardless.
My father was dealt a difficult hand in life. He's never managed to make much money and you would think that what little he did acquire had been coated in Teflon, because it just wouldn't stick. Still, he's always wanted for less than anyone I've ever known and if there's anything that he feels he's living without, he's never said it. In the way that counts, he's the richest man I know.
He enjoys a good home-cooked meal, is grateful for a sunny day, and smiles wide when the Yankees or Notre Dame come out victorious. Fill his belly, give him a newspaper, a good book or a game on the TV, and Joe Maley is in heaven. For whatever of him that I've inherited, I am grateful.
Every year on Father's Day, I take the time to tell him how much he means to me and thank him for teaching me to be a father by example, since we all know there is no manual. We live 1,200 miles apart now, and though he's finally learned the "inner-net" and we still have regular phone calls, it's not the same as having him around every day. If your father's with you today, make sure you remember how lucky you are and thank him, genuinely, for what he's given you. You never know how many chances you'll get.
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