Every so often something pops up on Facebook that is thought provoking. Recently, a posting by Facebook caused me to do something I do not do a lot of as of late and that is thinking of my dad.
There was an announcement posted to commemorate the summer equinox – the longest day of the year. The old man always made a big deal about that. He would point to the setting sun on the horizon and say that it would start to move the other direction now and the days would be getting shorter. He would mark the winter equinox as well, and I find it somewhat ironic that he was buried on the winter equinox.
The old man died in December of 1984. I always joke that there was no way he could handle a second term of Ronald Reagan – I have to wonder what he would say about the political climate today.
My father was an alcoholic, although he quit drinking before I came along. With siblings eight and 10 years older, not only was I a whoops, I was referred to as my parents’ “AA baby.”
I was heading down the drinking path pretty far when an incident occurred in August, 1980 that precipitated a phone call to my dad the next day. I asked him if alcoholism was hereditary and he said studies have shown that it was, so since that day I have not had a drink.
Growing up in an AA household I was peppered with witty sayings my whole life. I can remember as a second grader my parents drilling the Serenity Prayer into me: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
As a precocious 7-year-old, I did not have a clue what it meant. I had no grasp of what serenity was and my only thoughts of wisdom and courage were the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz.
Another one of their favorites was, “One day at a time.” Again, I was clueless. How else could we live but one day at a time? “Easy does it,” “Let go and let God,” “First things first ,” – the list is virtually endless. And in later years I heard one that I am surprised I never heard from him: “First thought wrong.”
My mother had a favorite AA saying that she got not from AA but from her mother – “This too shall pass.” She would say that to me countless times over the years, and what I would give to hear those words from her again.
Since my dad’s death, a lot has happened in my life, some of which I wish I could share and some of which I am glad he has not been around for.
When he died, I was in pursuit of an electrical engineering degree. Shortly after his death so too died my dreams of that degree. The complex math just got to be too much for me. Six months later I lost my job at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and those were two things I am glad he did not have to see.
But in those six months I continued to go to college to get GI Bill benefits and I took a psychology class. The teacher was an old guy and I learned a lot from him.
He had been declared dead after a heart attack, and he said that when he was brought back to life he was extremely upset that he was not allowed to die. It was not because of being called to the light. It was not because of seeing his parents and deceased loved ones.
It was because for the first time he was truly at peace. He said there was no light, nobody urging him on. Just peace and tranquility and he no longer feared death.
This old boy had a few tag sayings himself, one of which was, “If there is an exception, there is no rule.” Think about it – how many times have you heard that something is the exception to the rule? A rule is a rule, and there are no exceptions.
Another was, “The smartest man in the world is the one who knows what he does not know.” I have met a lot of people over the years that definitely thought they know much more than they did.
But his most poignant was one I am surprised I did not hear from the old man: “For every finger you point at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you.”
Some people dismiss witty little sayings as irrelevant. They point at them and scoff, but they need to remember, when pointing three fingers are pointing back at them.