Published November 22, 2012
My father died from cancer more than 20 years ago, a horrific ,ugly, awful pain filled death.
Listeners to my show have heard me refer to the line from the film Hannah and Her Sisters, which is something like: ' my parents loved the idea of having children, but raising them didn't interest them much...'
I usually go on to say 'i wish my father was interested a bit less' I've talked about his anger, his violence, his distance, his disgust and more.
Some say that with age comes greater perspective, or maybe getting further away from the trees allows us to see the forest more clearly.
I believe that as we mature, we realize what about our parents we wish to emulate, and what we choose to reject, or as my old friend Dan Inosanto would tell me: Bruce would say to me:
I've realized that all I learned from my father, I have not rejected.
My father insisted on being gentlemanly with women and taught the same to me.
Something my wife learned years ago, and some of my lady friends such as M, Maridel, Robyn,Lyndsey and Jennifer know, that when walking with me, I need to be on the street side...if men are approaching, I need to be between them and the lady I'm walking with...helping with coats, opening doors...things rarely taught to young men today, and OH,YEAH, no swearing around ladies, well at least ladies you don't know well.
But there's something else. I remember when I was very young, my father would take me with him on his 'holiday missions'. He prepared large boxes of food, loaded them into the back of his station wagon and drove me and the boxes way out(or at least way out to a little boy) to very poor people's homes. We'd walk the boxes up to their doors and gift them to the folks,REALLY poor people. I remember them asking him "who are you? Why are you bringing this to us?" His response was simple "just a little something for you for the holidays" .With that, we walked back to the car and drove to the next family. I don't know how he found these people. I don't know that he didn't just drive out till he found a home that looked like the occupants could use some help. He never gave his name, didn't send a press release or have pictures taken with the grateful poor. I don't ever remember him telling anyone that he did this. I don't remember ever asking him why he did it, I didn't have to, the message was obvious, even to me in my single digits.
On this Thanksgiving, in addition to being thankful for the loving people in my life, I'm thankful for some of what my father taught me, by his actions, not just his words.