12 Questions to Ask Your Dad Before He’s Gone

I saw these questions, and thought of my kids. I never got a chance to ask my father, and so I thought I would answer the questions for them, and sent my answers to my son and daughter yesterday. Here goes, I have lived an interesting life. If you have more questions, ask, and I will answer.

  1. What are you most proud of in your life?

I am most proud of being able to get back on my feet again, and be successful, in a slightly different field, after my entire world collapsed during the recession.  I didn’t give up, though I came close, and kept clawing at opportunities, and finally came almost all the way back.  It was scary, and life threatening, and I came close to breaking a few times, but with the strength I got from those I love, I got through it.

2. Why did you choose your career?

I got a job as a Government Documents Assistant at the American University Law Library. The 4 years I spent there, taught me that I understood, at an innate level, how the law books interacted, and almost spoke to each other.  I got it.  I saw that the degreed law librarians were paid pretty well, and didn’t take anything home with them, physically or mentally, at night.  That was the life for me.

3. Who was the most influential person in your life?

Joanne Zich, the Government Documents Librarian at the American University Law Library.  She taught me how to be a law librarian, a better person, and an adult.  She was one of the people who saved my life.  The other is Sam Nasser, the former Assistant Manager of Sur La Table.  Him giving me a job when I was 100% broke, and becoming a friend, seriously saved my life.

4. What do you admire most about your own father?

His heart and his intelligence.  He was a big man, one of the biggest I’ve ever known, but his physical size is nothing compared to the size of his heart and intelligence.  He was the strongest, smartest, fiercest, and loving, man I have ever known.

5. What’s your biggest life lesson?

Learn to fight for yourself, for what you want and what you need.  Do not assume no is no, outside of intimate relations.  Everything is negotiable in life.

6. Is there anything you regret not doing in your life?

I regret not traveling the world when I was younger.  I regret not starting a retirement account when I was 25.  I regret not studying harder and sooner, and making more of a difference in my life.

7. How would your father describe you?

Well, he once referred to me as “my lazy son” and he wasn’t wrong.  I was smart enough to skate by, and took full advantage of it.  I wish I hadn’t.  I wish I had applied myself.  Made more of myself. He also said I could do anything I put my mind to. That may or may not have been true.

8. What mistake taught you most about life?

I wouldn’t call it a mistake, so much, but getting laid off in the recession, going from $125,000 a year salary to zero income, and then $8.00 an hour, shows you what you are made of, and who your friends are.  Part of it is all my fault, because I never was a saver, so had nothing to fall back on except my retirement, and I drained that, which incurred a 20% penalty to the government.  So now I am forced to work until I am 70.

9. What world event had the most impact on you?

It’s actually a series of events, the MLK Civil Rights Movement, his assassination, the riots in DC that ensued, as well as the Vietnam War.  My dad introduced us to the marchers from Cleveland to Columbus, when they stopped in Wooster.  Some stayed overnight at our house, and we went to listen to them talk at the college.  It was eye opening.  My father, like me, was a news junkie. In the 1960s that was TV News every evening, from greats like Walter Cronkite, or Huntley and Brinkley, and sometimes both.  What aired, regularly, was news of national importance, the civil rights movement and the horrors that happened there, the ongoing horror of the Vietnam War, and everything from the Bay of Pigs, through Kennedy’s Assassination and politics on the national level, into the 1970’s and Nixon’s rise and fall.  Those times cemented me to care for the lives of others.  To do unto others as I would have them do unto me, to try and be kind.  I failed regularly, but I tried.

10. What do you enjoy most about being a father?

Watching how my children have grown and matured.  I know I wasn’t the easiest father.  I went through stressful times and it found its way out onto you all.  I never stopped loving you though.  I always cherished you in my heart, even if I failed to show it enough.  I love you both beyond measure.

11. What was the hardest moment for you as a father?

Moving out.

12. What’s one story I don’t know about you?

I don’t know.  I have done a lot of stupid and fun things in my life.  Much not appropriate to share.  Did you know I hitchhiked to Champaign/Urbana, Illinois for a long weekend?  Long hair and full beard, and a duffel bag.  Interesting trip with truckers, crazy men, criminals, and lonely folks.  Or the time in Colorado where I got talked into doing a 7 mile hike up a mountain, and about 4 miles in when I was told it was 7 miles each way.  Or the time I parachuted out of an airplane.  All dumb things for different girls that ended up being fun. 

Or the time Jay and I pull into Fort Worth at midnight, to meet my parents and stay with my Aunt and Uncle.  We didn’t have an address, just a phone number.  So we stop at a random phone booth of a highway exit – me wearing a pork pie hat, as one does.  I put a dime in the phone and made the call, got the address and directions, and hung up.  Dimes started pouring out of the phone, so many it filled up my hat.  That was weird.

I’m sure there are more, just ask.

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