Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Importance of Fatherhood

There’s always that, “if I could have just one more conversation,” I’d like to have with my dad. I’d have to catch him up on the past 25 years! I think it would go something like this...

Dad, we moved to North Carolina. Long story, but I sold Gordon’s and did what you did, found my passion and leaned into it. I got out of the corporate world and worked in non-profit, academia and now government plus a whole lot of other businesses with whom I consult. Quite a ride! I’ve learned a lot! Life is good! I’m not sure I would have done this if it hadn’t been for your leadership. Thank you for modeling the way!

Dad, remember the cartoon strip Dick Tracey? Remember the TV communicator the cartoon characters wore on their wrists? We’ve got them! They are called smart phones and they are a whole lot more than phones. They slide into your pant’s pocket! Oh yeah, I need to tell you about the Internet and the age of big data. Remember how you use to get the Wall Street Journal and the Dayton Daily news delivered? They are now digital. Let me explain! I’ve got this website and a blog...there are these sites called Facebook and LinkedIn...

Dad, remember all those books you read, they have become electronic. Your library would fit onto a hand held device about the size of two composition notebooks! Really! I still prefer a paper book so I can highlight, write notes and feel the page turn. I know you were a big fan of Peter Drucker. He is still a sage, but you really ought to read Patrick Lencioni, Daniel Pink, Seth Godin and Jim Collins.

Dad, the United States got attacked! I need to explain about 9/11. I need to explain how the world changed because of that event.

By the way Dad, I got a tattoo. I know, I never thought I’d do that, but well it was special and it was done in a special way and in someways it links back to you! You always seemed to “seize the day!”

Dad, the president of the United States is an African American, Barack Obama. He’s very intelligent. He has a good heart. He’s trying to lead the United States, but people in Washington have forgotten how to collaborate and compromise. That could be a long conversation.

Dad, Graeter’s Ice Cream, it’s still the best!

Dad, Westminster still looks like Westminster. Still a great Christ-centered community much involved in and with Dayton. I still check to see if your name is on the sign out front of the church whenever I get back.

Dad, we’ve got a chef in the family. Remember Erin? Remember grits? Well, they get fixed a lot differently than when you remember them. Erin is carrying on that food thing that Carr-Carr and Betty had. She got a good foundation from mother and Terri! She also knows a lot about wine and other adult beverages! Think a lot of that goes back to a year she spent in France during her junior year in college.

Dad, we’ve got a United States Marine in the family. You never got to meet Bretton, but you’d love him. Remember Jim Johnson teaching at Gardner-Webb? He still does and Bretton graduated from there as well. Once he was all boy, now he’s all man. I wish you could have been there when he graduated from MCRD as an honor graduate! I cried tears for both of us! He’s found his passion. Like you he’ll make a positive difference in the world.

Dad, mother is doing well. She sold the homestead and moved into Bethany Village. Huge transition and she has adjusted. I get back to see her several times a year. Lawrie is doing a great job of helping her with things. You’d be proud of both the women in your life. Lawrie is a vice president in US Bank’s trust restate.

Dad, whenever I get to Charlotte, I still go to Elmwood and visit you and the family. Unfortunately, the Ol’ Smokehouse is gone, but I still grab a BBQ sandwich and cold sweet tea to take, eat, talk and remember.

Dad, I just want to say that you taught me well. I’m deep into leadership and helping create nurturing communities. I say you were ahead of the curve when it came to leading and creating a nurturing work culture. You lead with love rather than command and control. “Management by Object” and “carrots and sticks,” were the big thing back when you were alive. Today its about creating balanced scorecards with people being given autonomy, mastery and purpose. It’s about creating a business culture that is nurturing, but then you knew that and did that!

Dad, you taught me about being significant. It was amazing how much more I learned about you after you died. You touched people in ways I had no idea! I’ve kept the cards and letters people sent to me after your death. I still pull them out and read and remember. They are gold. They are a reminder of your legacy.

Dad, most of all you taught me that fatherhood is priceless! When I look around at people who are having trouble in life, a lack of fatherhood is a factor. You taught me that fatherhood was about being there and making sure to connect with life’s mysteries, wonders, challenges, pain and sadness. I’m still trying to walk-your-talk and model-the-way.

I say thank you over and over and it is still not enough! But, here goes again, thank you. I love you. I’ll never forget! Happy Father’s Day!


Carrpe Diem! said...


There are many things I never knew about my father. I remember him as a good man—hardworking, conservative values—didn’t smoke, only an occasional beer, slept at home every night, but mostly, because he died when I was just thirteen, he’s the father I barely knew.

We lived in a nice apartment above Ehlert’s Grocery was a small store in a small town—before the days of supermarkets. Open 8:00 to 8:00, six days a week, while women customers squeezed every orange and grapefruit, or decided what cut of meat they wanted, I’d go to the shelves and pick out the items on their list. It was real personal service, and quicker that way, because aisles weren’t wide enough for carts. This was the 1940’s. B.C.—before carts.

Looking back, it was a great experience to grow up in a family grocery business. One of my first memories was near the end of WW II when, at the age of four, my parents dressed me in navy blue and I greeted every customer with a stiff salute. Everyone contributed to the war effort and that was mine, other than taking dimes to school to buy war bonds. Between salutes I stocked shelves, swept the floor, and helped customers find items on the shelves. Between delivery trucks I faced shelves—pulling everything forward, making it look like we had a big inventory when we did not.

As I grew older, I waited on customers, took their money, made correct change, and exchanged pleasantries. “All of our customers are nice, David,” said my father, “but some are so much nicer than others. No matter what, you’ve got to get along with them.” These were good things to learn—important in a lifelong career of selling, conducting customer surveys, writing speeches, whatever else I’ve done.

Then one fateful morning I was called home from school, only to learn that a blood clot had lodged in the brain of this man who’d never been sick a day in his life, and he had died—on my bed. Needless to say, my world dramatically changed. But as poured my heart out to my pet beagle, “Happy”, I decided I would never again let anyone I loved slip away without their being absolutely sure they knew it. Ever since, I have practiced, and told many others: “If you love someone, tell them. Tell them every opportunity you get. And don’t wait ‘til tonight.”

By the time my father died I could do everything in the store but cut meat, however with my older brothers and sisters all married or away at school, running the store proved too much for my mother and her seventh grade son. So, we put a big “Buy Three Get One Free” sign in the window, sold the inventory and fixtures, and rented the space to a man who sold Motorola televisions and lawn mowers. Yes, televisions and lawn mowers. It was a small town.

A few years later, with the arrival of supermarkets, the manager of A&P store #554 was delighted to add an energetic teenager to his payroll at $1.39 per hour. “I wish I could find a dozen more like you,” he said. All necessary training had already been done.

I learned a lot from my father just watching but it only takes three fingers to count the number of times I did things away from the store with him—checking for deer tracks as hunting season approached, fishing for bullheads in the cranberry ditches east of town, riding thirty miles to get more eggs when we had, sooner than usual, run out. That’s it—thirteen years, three times, just the two of us.

Yes, there are many things I never knew about my father. I remember him as a good man—hardworking, conservative values—didn’t smoke, only an occasional beer, slept at home every night. But mostly, because he died when I was just thirteen, he’s the father I barely knew.

Carrpe Diem! said...

More on Peter Drucker at

Ed Gash said...

Nothing more needs to be said but "Amen"