For my Dad, life's greatest enjoyments did not come from having luxurious things -- a new car, a big house, a new boat, or expensive furniture. Life's greatest enjoyments came from doing things, like golf or tennis or swimming, fixing trains or repairing a stubborn lawnmower engine, taking a walk, playing chess or solving some puzzle. And with the family, Dad wanted to do these things together. If everyone was just sitting around watching TV, better look out because Dad would try to get your butt off the couch. For example, every Thanksgiving dad would have some project going on in the morning. While mom was cooking, everyone else would be out chopping wood, repairing a fence, or some other home improvement project. Actually, Dad kept these types of group projects going year round; he knew the benefit of free labor in his children. Sometimes we wanted to do these projects, more often not, but we came to accept it as the norm and it was balanced with a healthy dose of fun family activities, like skiing, hiking, throwing the football or baseball, bowling, or a game of Hearts or Bridge. Some of our greatest memories and bonding as a family came from doing things together, and Dad was the reason many of those activities took place.
Dad also wanted his children to make the best of themselves. One thing that Dad helped me with as a young adult was preparing me for the same Air Force flight school that he went through. On a few occasions he put me in the simulators he had access to at Boeing and drilled me over and over on instrument flying. He would say again and again -- nope not good enough, make smaller corrections, try it again, good, now you getting it. He would explain to me that you don't want to just fly "inside the box", you want to fly in the center of the box. He was teaching me the mechanics of flying, but more importantly, he was sharing his mindset on life -- to do your best, and when you think you have given your best, think again, because you probably have more to give. Whenever he taught us to do something, this was his underlying lesson.
I once asked Dad what he wanted his legacy to be. I was expecting something huge. His answer was simply that he wanted to golf his age. In hindsight this answer was predictable because he was always so humble. Dad did not reach his goal, but one of many legacies he passed down to his children that we are very grateful for is an understanding that hard work is a key ingredient for success in any endeavor.
Dad's desire to help us extended to many areas of life and sometimes his advice conflicted with our own choices. I think this occasionally troubled him because he saw it as a rejection of his underlying lesson to try our best. I sensed in recent years though, that he realized we were trying our best, even if how we did it differed from his approach or had our own unique fingerprint on it. I think he sometimes struggled to find a way to say that he was proud of us all despite these disagreements. It is especially this that I think my dad would have had more to say about if he knew the end was near.
Dad was still teaching even when it came to death. Sometimes I would point out to him that he had only about a quarter tank left in his life gas tank, and then I would ask him what he thought about that. Every time I asked him this question, he would tell me in the most honest and matter-of-fact way that if he died tomorrow, he was OK with that; "I've had a good one" he would say...then he would quickly point out that my gas tank was only about half full and we would both laugh at our predicament.
Today I would like to say to you Dad, thank you for all you have done for us, you were a great father, and don't worry about words not spoken, you told us you loved us through your actions and your lessons which helped us grow into the people we are today. We love you and life will never be the same without you.