My father was a very driven man. He was a chemical engineer with a degree from Case Institute of Technology. My mother attended Western Reserve and I assure you that it was never Case-Western Reserve in our household! He became a sales representative for companies that sold valves and anti-polution devices for large industries in northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He did not come from money, in fact he did not have enough money to pay for a phys ed class he needed for graduation. He became a very successful salesman, joined a country club, purchased real estate in exclusive resort areas in South Carolina and Arizona.
He was always working and I remember hearing about his work at the dinner table. He often made calls every morning on family vacations and was a very stressed person. He had a conversion experience at a Billy Graham Crusade in Cleveland soon after I was born. He shared his abundance. There were people who had homes to live in, college tuition paid, meals, Christian organizations and a wealth of others things that my father took upon himself to provide as an anonymous donor. He was generous with his family and we probably never showed our full appreciation.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the mid 80’s and lived with the disease many years before any of us knew about it. One of the last conversations I had with him was about the course of life. He told me, “I worked so hard all my life and when it was time for me to enjoy the fruits of my labor, I couldn’t enjoy it. Jen, don’t work so hard, enjoy life as it comes.” These may not have been his exact words but the sentiment was one of a man who had gotten to the end and had spent too much time working.
Yesterday I picked up a book he had lying around the house that I had read in my high school years, The Magic of Thinking Big, published in 1959, two years before I was born. It is all about success. Successful people have a positive attitude. Successful people don’t make excuses. Successful people take action to cure fear.
My father battled the demons of discouragement, depression and weight his whole life. In the end he was suffering from dementia, and the body stiffness associated with his manifestation of Parkinson’s disease. He was also diagnosed with an obsessive compulsive disorder that revolved around absolute cleanliness! No doubt, these issues were connected to the fact that he had nursed his mother with diabetes and the loss of her limbs during a time when insulin was unavailable.
He was a difficult man to love. We were fearful of his criticism and anger but he never harmed us. We had fun but you were never sure when something would “tick him off”.
He gave me the opportunity to do what I was drawn to do, play the piano and participate in music in all of its forms. I don’t think he understood it but he still supported me through school. Thank-you Dad.
I’m sorry that you did not have the opportunity to enjoy the end of your life and easily pass from this life to the next with peace.
His last words were, “I won’t bother you any more.”
By all standards my father was very successful. He accomplished more than his family could have ever hoped. I remember when his father, my grandfather was living with us he would challenge me to not just pick up one block at a time but to pick up as many as I could. He worked as a parking garage attendant. What drove my father to achieve? What prevented him from fully enjoying his accomplishments?
What does success look like for you? What does success look like from God’s perspective?