My father taught much by Dadism, lecture, and justified admonition, but he taught me more by his actions. Of the many unspoken lessons the one that stands above all others is:
“Don’t talk, do.” -RLW
He never spoke the phrase. He lived it. Most of my childhood my father drove truck…
- Let’s put a pin in that ramble for a moment to lift up the significance of semantics. My father drove truck. As a child I thought, and still think, there was little else cooler than being at the wheel of a big rig. One day I called my father a truck driver and he politely stopped me and offered, “I choose to drive truck so your Mother and I can put food on the table, a roof over our heads, provide you with an education, and one day retire comfortably. For that I am appreciative, but I am not a truckdriver. That is a very limiting term. A job is to finance ones life, not become ones life.” In that one exchange my mind was opened up to the truth that no matter where we are in life we are to define ourselves and not allow our situations to define us. And we are back in 1, 2, 3…
… and one day I received a call from my Father who is not a big phone guy. It was outside of our traditional Thursday night post Cosby Show (yep, I am old) weekly wrap up so this was kind of a big deal. The reason? For my junior and senior years of college I was 90 miles deeper in to upstate NY than my home town, which was already pretty deep upstate (although those in Plattsburgh and Buffalo may beg to differ. Middle state?). He would be coming through town and wanted to know if I was free to meet up. Always a yes. I do not remember the exact topics of discussion, but this day sits above all others among my college memories. The picture above is the picture I took of my father crossing the street to meet up that day. (I have kept a camera handy for a long time.)
At the start of my college career my parents dropped me off at the alma mater of my Uncles in NC. Loving words and goodbyes were exchanged and they returned home to NY.
By the time this picture was taken my college career had taken a less than conventional path that found me in Utica, NY (Go whatever the SUNY Tech sports team was named!). But he never withdrew the promise of an education spoken to me as a young child.
His old school Alabama upbringing meant the words I, love and you were not thrown around in that order willy-nilly. But when my belief in myself faltered he believed in me enough to carry me through.
He never went on and on about how to be a good husband, father, and a man in great detail. But his never raising his voice nor speaking an unkind word to my Mother or myself spoke volumes.
Silent. Strong. Calm. Wise. Ever present.
Don’t talk, do. Saying is fine, but doing is what matters. Apologies are fine and necessary at times, but it is better to live ones life so they are few and far between. Excuses never.
In a world often obsessed with empty words and promises with little or no action to back them up this is one of the greatest lessons that one can learn.
Recently someone compared me to my father. While I have a long way to go to merit such a comparison I can think of no greater compliment.