Lessons learned from the Book of Harold

dad at his best

Twenty-Five years ago a great man died…

He may not have been written about in history books…, he may not have been a Pulitzer  Prize winner…, nor was he the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize… but on February 24, 1990, the world lost a great man…  that man was my Dad.

The Book of Harold

For many years I thought that my Dad’s life was a tough life… a real challenge for him because he lost so much… his health, his home, his marriage and ultimately, his life.   However, last night as I was looking through old pictures of him and articles about him, I saw my Dad at his best.  The guy with the engaging smile, one of those true smiles… never forced… always genuine.  His eyes twinkled when he laughed and they sparkled with love anytime I walked into the room.

My Dad was the most amazing loving heart…

My Dad taught me a lot of lessons about life, lessons about leadership, and  lessons of strength and perseverance that I did not fully appreciate until last night…

Lesson One: Honor Thy Mother…

He grew up in a family where there was a secret… a big secret.  My Dad had a sister who had lived with their grandmother her whole life. No one ever questioned why Eleanor lived with their grandmother when my Dad, his younger brother (George) and their little sister (Izzy) lived at home with their parents.

When my Dad was an adult, the secret was finally divulged…, his sister was born at a time when my grandmother was briefly married to another man… when my grandmother was only seventeen years old and well before she had met my grandfather.  Once the secret was shared, no one ever talked about it again as long as my grandmother was alive… out of respect for her. I don’t know if the silence was due to my grandmother feeling deeply ashamed or if she was deeply hurt… I imagine it was a bit of both…

Lesson Two: Be a Likable Leader…

Dad grew up in a small town where he was a popular young man and had a close relationship with a group of other young men, a few who achieved some success in their lives. One became an Archbishop in the Catholic Church, another a prominent business man and civic leader in the community. My dad followed suit by becoming a Commander of the local Army Reserve and ultimately awarded the position of Captain in the Army Corps of Engineers during WWII, where he spent time in Germany and France after landing a few days post D Day during the Allied Invasion of Normandy.

My dad was a natural-born leader… a leader with a charismatic personality that charmed, young, old, women and men alike.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to tell stories which I am sure were embellished to a great degree to get his audience more engaged and laughing.

After he returned from the war, he soon took on more leadership roles within his community; becoming the Mayor of his hometown,  holding a County Commissioner seat for a term,  acting in the President role for many organizations including Toastmasters, The Lion’s Club, the VFW, and the American Legion. If you name an organization in existence back at that time, Harold most likely had a leadership role at one time or another within it because he was well-loved by so many…

Lesson Three: Be Proud to be an American…

I can remember watching him as he marched in our hometown parades as he barked out the orders to keep everyone marching in formation, his rifle on his shoulder, eyes forward and marching with great intent.  He was so proud  to be a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, so proud to be a member of the American Legion… so proud to be an American.

Lesson Four: Help Others in Need

My Dad was an amazing man…  he had an engaging personality and he loved life and the people who came into his life.  He cared about others and he would never shy away from helping someone out in times of need.  I heard a story not too long ago where a young man came home from the war, poor as a church mouse and my Dad gave him a job.  This man remembers my Dad fondly, appreciative that my Dad gave him a chance so long ago when he was down and out.

I also remember one time when Dad came home with some cases of soda pop, which was quite the treat in the 1960’s!  A truck driver’s vehicle had broken down and my Dad stopped to help him get his truck up and running.  In return for my Dad’s help,  the man gave him those cases of pop as a gift of gratitude…

Lesson Four: Soldier On in Times of Despair

In 1952, my brother Gregory was born. Greg was the third child of my parents… a child who was on this earth only a short 4 months… dying unexpectedly from what my Mom believes was a bad reaction to his baby shots.  One day he woke up fine, received his four-month “baby shots” and by that night, he was dead…

I cannot imagine the crushing blow it must have been for my Dad when his child died.  He never spoke of Greg… in fact no one ever spoke of Greg in our home… but for a father to lose his child so unexpectedly had to create excruciating emotional pain and anguish.  The military training my Dad had undergone during WWII served him well at this time in his life… he learned to not show fear or sadness… and he learned to soldier on when he had to look at the worst of life’s challenges squarely in the eyes.

Lesson Five: Create Purpose in Your Life…

It was after Greg died that my Dad worked the political circuit and did his stint as  Mayor and County Commissioner.  He served as an usher at church in his parish and he never missed a Sunday mass or his slotted time to sit in the sacristy of the Church during Perpetual Adoration. My Dad was a very spiritual man and that spirituality created purpose during the dark times of his life…

Lesson Six: Self-medicating is dangerous…

I have a sense that my Dad wants me to tell the whole story… to finish writing the last chapter of his life in the hopes that maybe someone will relate… maybe one young life will be saved… maybe families can forgive and heal…

My Dad suffered from alcoholism… a disease that robs one of both physical and mental health.  My Dad smoked like a steam engine from the time he was a kid and I would imagine he tasted his first sip of alcohol not long after.  As with anyone with this disease,  it was only a matter of time before social drinking became emotional drinking and then the emotional drinking became problem drinking and the problem drinking along with the chain-smoking robbed him of his life at the age of 68.

The outgoing, charismatic man with the engaging smile was left with paralyzed vocal cords from the strokes and cancer cells that initially invaded his colon and ultimately took his life.

My Dad wants this part of his story told to help others understand that this disease called alcoholism is a non-effective way to self-medicate against depression or anxiety.  He wants this part of his story told to help others understand that an alcoholic places more shame on themselves than anyone else could.  He wants this part of his story told to help grieving parents know that they are not alone in their grief and that there are ways to cope that can give life versus take it away. He wants this part of his story told so that his life on this earth had meaning…

Yes, twenty-five years ago, a great man died… a man who I am proud to say…was my DAD.

Dad, I bow my head in honor of your spirit for we know…

Many can speak but only the sensitive can understand…

Positive Aspects Today A Bridge

http://www.patcoach.com

952-210-3767

pats@patcoach.com

2 thoughts on “Lessons learned from the Book of Harold

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s