Never Forget Your Roots
June 14, 2011
My dad, my racing buddy, died this week. I am preparing to attend his funeral services as I write this. I am still hurting from the loss. He was 81 years young and lived a great life. He was my mentor, a manager, a mechanic, a practical thinker, called it as he saw it, all the while being someone with a fabulous spirit that understood people.
Above all, the trait I loved most about him was his kindness and truthfulness in dealing with people. He wanted the best for his people when they were in his charge ... and the best for his kids, two girls and a boy. I will try to always follow his guidance as a kind manager of people, to treat those who report to you as you would like to be treated, a good boss. Those same traits were his hallmarks in being a father as well.
Dad was a simple man who had a simple love -- a love for cars and racing, which rubbed off onto me, his only son. It was our thing. With two girls in the house and a wife, he had to be glad when I came along as the third child. I followed dad around and picked up his love for all things motorsports related. We attended car races regularly and worked on cars for hours on end when I was growing up. When he raced his own car, I was by his side in the pits.
When I was 14 he bought us motocross motorcycles and we would saddle up the bikes weekly to head into the woods, like two young kids -- throwing mud, spinning circles and laughing all the way. I saw him take amazing crashes and he was tough to beat on any course, even though as a kid I weighed a fraction of his weight. You have read countless stories in these articles through the years, but what you did not know was that most had my dad playing a part with his trademark playful grin.
He would always have the coolest car in the neighborhood because performance was his thing. Whether it was the 1966 Pontiac GTO, the SS Chevelle Convertible or the fastest production motorcycle ever produced by Kawasaki, he was all over it. As I grew up and headed down a radio path, he did nothing but support me in chasing my dreams. He would always say, "You can do anything you set your mind to"... and I believed it. I don't mind telling you that you are hearing him when you read Success Tips articles. He had a tremendous impact on me.
Later in life, I would take him to the big show; he loved to see the "big guys" run in the NASCAR series. We especially liked Michigan International Speedway and attended just about every race together there in the 1990s on the big two-mile oval.
Eventually he could no longer travel due to his failing health as emphysema, COPD and breathing problems caught up to him. I would attend a race, call him and hold the phone up as the cars roared past the starting line for the green flag. I knew he was there in front of the TV at attention. We would talk on Sundays about the crash of the day or how a particular driver was doing, or what the latest garage gossip was.
In February of this year, I traveled to the Daytona 500 and before the race, my wife and I made it down onto the track so we could write his name on the start finish line. He watched the race from his hospital bed back in Ohio, his name written in ink on the track as the drivers passed over.
In the business world in the 1960s, he was a Plastics Plant manager, tried his hand at business, even starting his own plastics company at one point, eventually settling on the coal mines as the way to support himself in later years. He took any job he had as serious and he did the best he could at all times. Most of all, he was a good man, someone I never knew to tell a falsehood and was one that demonstrated kindness in his dealings with people.
He was sometimes considered "blunt," including by my mom who had passed away six years earlier. I watched him take care of her every day for 15 years until she died. It hurt me more than anything to watch his pain for weeks after she was gone. They had been together for over 50 years. It was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed.
Through the years, I have always been lucky to have come from simple roots, from a family that was well "grounded." We didn't run in circles where family and friends of family had a lot of material possessions or money, but we had what I consider a great upbringing in a small town where family values were excellent.
I was lucky to have had great friends through my childhood years and appreciate them greatly to this day. Everyone I have met through my years have been a part of my life and arrived there to teach me whatever lesson they were carrying for me.
Who are your lesson carriers in your life?
Folks carry lessons for you into your life. The best part is that if you can see the lesson they bring, they will be very valuable to you. I am grateful for every person who has taught me anything -- and that would be everyone in my life. Everyone teaches. Some do not even know they are teaching, but they are.
The key is that you are open and receptive to their lesson. What is this person bringing to me? Why? What do they want me to learn from them? Know your roots and be open to the many lessons that come to you daily.
I know what dad brought to me. I know what he did. And I think he did it very, very well. He lives in me today and will continue to live in me.
I love you, dad.