To my biggest influence:
It is difficult to limit to one page how profoundly you have influenced me in so many ways.
You were hard on me. You expected me to always present my best. You told me that how I look, act, dress, smell you name it mattered. That I had no second chance for a first impression.
You were the guy who defined work ethic. I felt guilty not helping you out. But I didn’t know how hard it was for you to work all day and slam down a quick dinner and then go work on the house until late at night. I would someday. When I had a family of my own and I wanted things for them.
To say that you came from humble beginnings is an understatement. Dirt floors and plastic on the windows is more than humble, it’s poor. Most of your family still live like that, but not you. You wanted better and you worked for it. It didn’t require a job on Wall Street, you drove a truck and never said no to overtime. They called you the “rich guy” because you accomplished something they never could by doing what they weren’t willing. You taught me not to dislike them for their contempt, but forgive them for they don’t know better. They were family and you can’t choose family.
You defined optimism. I always heard you say “things will always work out”. You never knew that I laughed you off inside as I nodded in agreement with you. When a co-worker stepped up and donated me a kidney, saving my life, I had to wonder how you knew. What, after the hardscrabble life that you had endured gave you such optimism and faith in people? When I came around to this mindset my life improved, or I just became more open to positive thought and making the most of it.
You were a great friend. Everyone could count on you, some even took advantage. It didn’t matter, if helping someone was the right thing to do then you did it. I take friendship very seriously thanks to you.
You invested in people and advertised for them. If you used a company, especially a local guy, then you advertised them. You told everyone you knew to go there. Of course, if they pissed you off then you could do some serious damage. I find myself doing this as well when I like someone I want to help them. I promote them.
You were a real nice guy. That was good enough for you. And that was the highest compliment you could give someone, to call them a nice or a good guy. They may not have appreciated that distinction but to me, if I die and someone remembers me as a “good guy” I will smile down.
You left me before I could tell you how many times you were right. How many times the situation played out exactly as you said it would if I didn’t take your advice. It was your job to be right, it was mine to listen to you. It would have been nice to sit down when you were old and grey and tell you to your face.
I didn’t think you would die before I could.
That sense of optimism about life, that you taught me, didn’t allow for the possibility that the retirement you worked so hard for and deserved so badly, would be snatched from you.
So I am telling this to your stone. You were the best. Part of me died with you. You are my father and I miss you more than you could ever imagine.