As we prepare for this second-tier holiday on Sunday, always a poor No.2 to the celebration of Mothers celebrated each year, I thought I would take a moment to thank my dad, and all my subsequent dads, for all they have done for me.
First of all, I'd like to thank the most important dad of all, my own dad, for not only all the things he did right by me, but all the stuff he messed up as well. The stuff he did right includes:
- A strong work ethic;
- A powerful sense that people who do not talk to each other at the dinner table are lacking in some basic human functionality;
- A dark and sometimes malevolent sense of humor;
- The recognition that it's okay for a man to be silly when he feels like it;
- An enjoyment of marriage, even when you're not enjoying it; A love of beef.
That's just a short list, not as comprehensive as I would like, but it's a start. Things that he messed up about me that have actually helped me throughout my life include:
- A perfectionistic streak. He used to tell a story about his mother, about whom he had extremely mixed feelings. When he received a 95 on a test while in school, his mother would look at the test and say, not kidding, "What happened to the other five points?" He told me that story usually while congratulating me on, say, a 92, adding, "So what did happen to the other eight points?"
- The limits of perfectionism. At the same time, I believe I have produced more over the years simply because I couldn't stand to do things the way he did. He used to labor over every assignment, and each thing he did was etched in his own blood. It cost him way too much. Consequently, I determined that it was often best just to blow stuff out and see where it would land. It's never really as bad as you think it is while you're producing something. So I tend to just let things rip, rather than going down into the mines to lift out a tiny diamond. I thank him for that.
- A bad temper. From my dad, I learned that a good explosion can help you get your way, even if you don't really deserve to. That has been of incalculable value to me in my business career.
- The uses of silence. He was also quite adept at simply withdrawing from discourse while displeased. Again, I can't imagine managing other people without this excellent tool.
- A love of beef. Have you noticed what happens to you when eat too much beef? Those of you who are still alive, I mean.
I would also like to take a moment to thank my first professional dad, Alan, for being such an enormous putz that I forever learned the template. This is a guy who sent his assistant back into a burning building to retrieve his watch. 'Nuff said?
And my second boss, Bill, for teaching me that a successful person often becomes that way by simply allowing his natural personality to drive things. I remember the day when he kept me waiting for two hours in the lobby, until 8 p.m., for a meeting. This would have been fine, except he went home at 6:15 p.m. If his secretary, Janice, hadn't told me he was gone, I might have been waiting there overnight.
To my first female dad, Maria, for showing me that it pays to be polite to people even when you're annoyed at them, particularly if they are your bosses. She wasn't. I took over for her. I even got her ergonomic chair.
To Bill, my dad in the 90s, for just being a great friggin' guy. Loony at times, with a searchlight for a brain and a heart as big as his executive office, both of which were in fact too big and led to his demise.
To a few of my bad dads over the years, for teaching me that I could outlive them, and another interesting things, too. After bad dads go, they are never quite as fearsome when you run into them later. I saw one of them the other day at a funeral of another, and he was downright pleasant. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I mean, this guy was MEAN. Now? A creampuff. Of course, he's no longer Dad.
Of course, I'm Dad now. I'm looking forward to a similar outpouring of affection and derision this year. So far, nothing has been forthcoming.