WFAE Commentary: Father’s Lessons Have Lasting Effect

This post originally aired on WFAE on Monday, April 9, 2012.  You can listen to it here.

The other day, I stopped by my parents’ house and found my father sitting on the couch channel surfing. For many people, that wouldn’t be an unusual sight. For me, it was another in a series of firsts. I don’t mean to imply that my father never watched TV; he did, just very selectively.
Sally Phillips with her father. He might plan to watch a specific football game or an episode of AutoWeek, but other than that, he rarely watched TV. Instead, he would read the newspaper, dive into an issue of BusinessWeek or Consumer Reports or work on his computer.

But those days are fading. My dad has entered a new phase in his life and we are going along for the ride.

Moving a bit slower than he once did, he’s begun to forget where things are and what’s next on his agenda. But he’s not lost his ability to teach life lessons to those around him.

Early on, my father taught me that everyone is worthy of respect and compassion. He was the cool dad that treated all of my friends with respect, never discounting our values or opinions because we were “just kids.” I try to be as respectful with our daughter’s friends.

To Dad, family always came first. As he climbed into the senior management ranks of the Federal Government, he never crossed into the government-appointee realm that would require massive amounts of travel, lest he upset fine balance between work and family that he and my mother so carefully crafted. My husband and I strive to follow in their footsteps.

My father has also taught me that gentleness speaks volumes. Never one to dictate that my sister or me take a specific course of action, he often began his monologues with the phrase, “You may want to consider. . .”

In those five little words he conveyed a sense of caring, his preferred course of action, and our freedom to follow his advice or not. It’s my single most favorite saying, and I have borrowed it liberally at home and at work.

These days, Dad is showing the rest of us how to mature gracefully. His wit, still very much intact, has become a never-ending source of laughter and stress relief in these challenging times.

While he feels badly about losing track of things and time, his love of life and his family hasn’t wavered. Like always, he never misses an opportunity to kiss or hug one of us or tell us how much he loves us. He’s up for any outing we plan and has begun enjoying movies that he used to be too busy to sit through.
As he told his doctor, “I’m 80 years old. This is just part of the process for me. I’m grateful for each day.” My dad’s lessons just keep coming.

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