The Wisdom of Dads

The Wisdom of Dads

Happy June! The month when so much is happening – the start of summer, the end of the school year, weddings, vacations, graduations, and {{{{{drum roll}}}}} Father’s Day!

Recently, I went to my godson’s graduation at the Forman School in Litchfield, CT. This school has been around for 100 years and is focused on helping kids with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD. At the graduation, Alan Alda, whose grandson was also graduating, spoke. Alan’s speech was eloquent and wise. Every person, young or old, male or female, could truly benefit from his wisdom. Indeed, judging by the vibes and reactions, I believe that many in the audience recognized that they were receiving a gift of life guidance. One thing he said that especially resonated with me was (and I’m paraphrasing), “I can’t give you my seventy years of life. I’m only sharing what I feel have been the important moments or messages of life, as I’ve seen it.”

Alan also noted how that in 2015, the whole world can learn what happened halfway across the globe almost immediately – something no generation except this one has experienced. He also told a very funny story about Kurt Vonnegut, the talented author, who delivered a commencement address in 1997 that became world famous. The only thing was, Kurt didn’t write it! Still, it’s a gem worth repeating, as Alan did at the graduation ceremony I attended.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

I was so thrilled to hear Alan Alda (a father of three and grandfather of eight, according to Wikipedia) read “Kurt’s speech.”

As Alan, and all dads know, June is the month in which we celebrate Father’s Day! In my previous newsletter, I paid special attention to mothers for their day, so I feel it’s only right this month to give kudos to the dads. You know who you are and how important you have been to those whom you love and who love you. I know many of you have felt the weight of the world on your shoulders while caring for and protecting your kids. A very tough job, but hey . . . Congratulations! You did it! And for many, you are still doing it!

For those dads who have lost a child, I present the following which I came across on Facebook, and want to share.

A Dad Hurts Too

People don’t always see the tears a DAD cries,
His heart is broken too when his beloved child dies.
He tries to hold it together and tries to be strong,
Even though his whole world’s gone wrong.
He holds on to her as her tears fall,
Comforts her throughout it all.
He goes through his day doing what he’s supposed to do,
But a piece of his heart has been ripped away too.
So when he’s alone he lets out his pain,
And his tears come down like pouring rain.
His world has crashed in all around him,
All that was bright has gone completely dim.
He searches for answers but none are to be found,
Who offers help a DAD up when he’s hit the ground?
He smiles through his fears,
Struggles trying to hold in his tears.
But what you see on the outside is not always real,
Men don’t always show how they really feel.
He feels he has to be strong for the others,
But DADS hurt too, not just the mothers.

(Original work found here)

Let me close by saying . . . Friends, enjoy all the upcoming wonderful moments of this June, and reflect on the good times of days gone by . . . they are all important. And do wear sunscreen!

Looking forward this June to returning to the Afterlife Conference in Norfolk, Virginia, and returning to New Hampshire. Check out my website for details.

As I write, spring is still here, and it’s Rachel Carson’s birthday. What an amazing gift she left the world, way before her time.

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