There are always people in our lives that leave strong imprints. In my case, it was my father, Mark. The man was as close to a saint in my eyes that one can get. Oh sure, he made his share of mistakes. Yet, Dad was the kind of person who could diffuse arguments before they started. He had a way of putting people at ease and make them feel that they were in the driver’s seat. He did everything in his power to allow people to make their mistakes without feeling like a fool. It was a very special gift that he had. Dad was very quiet but he made many people feel at ease by just listening to them. He used to say that you could learn much if you didn’t say anything.
Dad was the oldest of three boys. No sisters. There were some studies that he loved. History was one of them. He also loved literature. I think that’s where I get my love of the classics from. He would read to me as a child some of the classic stories from Hans Christian Anderson, and even authors like Mark Twain. He wanted me to be able to form my own creative stories and transport myself into a world of wonder. Those stories helped mold a very active imagination. It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned how similar Dad and I were.
I know I’ve mentioned this before but I have ADHD. Focusing is extremely difficult for me. My brain races all the time. I jump from thought to thought within seconds and getting to where I need to go isn’t always the easiest task. My dad had the same problem. I didn’t know that until I was an adult. He’d managed to work within the confines of his learning capacity. Dad was very intelligent. But the thing about Dad as he struggled with his confidence for a long time too. Fortunately, he had my mom to help be a strong partner to encourage him and bolster his confidence. They made a fantastic team. Where one was strong, the other learned from, and vice versa. They bounced off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Dad never looked at anyone as if they were beneath him. His faith in God was fierce and he prayed often.
Even when I acted up, Dad never waned with his love and support of me. He showed me that even when a person struggles, they are still worthy of unconditional love and support. We don’t always agree with the choices we all make in life, but we don’t have to be defined by each poor decision we make. Instead, we do have to embrace our mistakes and misjudgments and be willing to grow emotionally, physically, and spiritually within our own beliefs. It’s through faith that we can forgive. We don’t have to forget but we do need to ensure that we grow from the problems we face. Dad knew this well.
I once asked my father why he became a minister. He said that there were limited options for him. He had grown up with mountain blood running through his veins. There are two cities in North Carolina that he told me to never fall in love with anyone from there because I was probably kin to them. How’s that for leaving an impression on a young girl’s mind? Anyways, my father wasn’t very skilled in the art of furniture making and his father was a wizard in that field. Dad knew he wasn’t a good salesperson so he opted to not go into retail. The technology wasn’t something he excelled in either but he loved music. The man had an incredible voice. He and I would gather around the piano and sing all the time. We especially loved the Beatles “Let It Be”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and various hymns. Music was the one area that we both communicated best. We would converse about the songs that we wrote together. They were never on paper though. I couldn’t recall them if I had to on paper but in my head, they are still as fresh as the day we contrived them. It’s strange. I had gone to Brevard Music Center two years in a row. I studied under some of the most prestigious musicians, received superiors in music theory, and have forgotten much of what I learned. It’s shameful. I still hear the music in my head but getting it on paper is complex for me.
Throughout Dad’s time in ministry, he found that he wasn’t happy. Politics are prevalent in every field of life. Dad didn’t do well in political circles. I don’t either. Maybe that’s why he understood me so well. He was told by a minister who was high up in the Synod to leave my mother because if he “ever wanted to go far in the ministry, he’d need a different wife.” Thank goodness Dad didn’t listen to him. My parents were each other’s yin and yang. My mom has often said that both of them helped each other obtain their degrees. She said that the degree might have one name on them, but it took a village to get them through the programs and they did it together. They helped me with my Bachelor’s too. There were classes in Algebra that I struggled with and dad came to my rescue. He tutored me to help me comprehend difficult formulas and helped me to make sense of jumbled rhetoric.
When I was about seven, my parents moved to a different town. Dad was unemployed that first year of the move. That was the closest to my father and I had ever been up to that point. I loved having him around. Yes, I was a daddy’s girl. Dad introduced me to reading complex books. He had me reading Othello and Macbeth. He wanted me to understand the stories throughout time and he would always tell me that there was nothing I couldn’t do in this world except for fathering a child and he’d even say that science was probably going to change that option at some point. In many ways, he was a leader and a strong advocate for women and women’s rights. He never wanted me to feel that a man was better than me. He urged me to think for myself and be able to stand on my own two feet.
It wasn’t long after this, that my father wanted to change careers. He wanted to become a nursing home administrator. How he was able to juggle that career and still maintain his pastoral role, I will never know but he managed to work with the Synod to maintain his role. However, he eventually went to work in the nursing home administration field. He enjoyed what he did but his career took him away from mom and me for a few years. They juggled their marriage and raising me while he worked an hour and a half away. Sometimes it was tough. It was smack in the middle of me going through puberty and that was not fun for any of us. Somehow we all survived it. I eventually graduated from high school, dad left his position as a nursing home administrator and when I was in college, everything changed. My grandfather had a heart attack. I was allowed to see him in the hospital. He looked so frail and weak. He no longer resembled the man who would take me fishing. Instead, I saw my father look crestfallen as his father was slipping away.
It was because of my grandfather’s demise, that my father decided to go into financial planning. He watched as his mother struggled with how to keep everything afloat. In losing his father, my dad gained a new type of life. There was an awareness that the family needed some good counsel on how to make the dollar maximize itself to the fullest. None of us were wealthy and dad knew that Pastor’s salaries were meek compared to other fields. Thankfully, my father had the aptitude and the heart to obtain the education, the credentials, and the contacts to make a difference.
It wasn’t easy. He had to go through various groups to get the experience and licenses that he needed. But, my father taught me two very valuable lessons. He taught me more than that but two of them I use regularly in the world of finance. When you invest in any type of 401K or Roth IRA, Mutual Funds, or stocks, do NOT pay attention to the dollar amounts. This is tricky because that’s what most companies focus on. Pay attention to the stock shares. That’s important. Because when you see the shares that are accrued at a lower cost when they go up, there’s a higher return. The second one is that when you get paid, pay yourself. Even if you can’t save 10% as most gurus tell you, if you save even $5 a check, eventually, that money adds up. It boils down to discipline.
There’s a lot of people in this world who will try to get you to spend your money. I worked for quite a few of them. One of them was a company that sold perfume and it was a knockoff brand. They would go to parking lots to sell the item and get people to go ahead and purchase it quickly. That’s known as hustling. You are in control of your money. If you decide to purchase something that you want, then be aware that once you spend what you had, the money is gone. Use good judgment and think about what is important to you. It’s through memories of my dad that I’m making better financial decisions and getting out of debt. Dad warned me about the pitfalls and I failed to listen. After he died, I lost control. I didn’t care about anything or anyone other than my mom and the people closest to me. I was numb and in a state of shock. I drifted through everything. One night I had a dream that my Dad was talking to me and telling me that I was falling apart. I cried so hard. Since my dad had been attacked by cancer, I was never able to have many conversations that he could reciprocate especially when he lost his mobility. In my heart, I know that Dad was proud of me. Yet, because of cancer, the last thing my father ever clearly said to me was that I was a disappointment. That I was not worthy of anything. Those who knew my father best will tell you that Dad would never have said that to me. That it was the cancer talking. I have to believe that’s true or else I will feel as if I’m a constant disappointment. We may all have days that we don’t do good things, but that doesn’t mean that we are failures as people. It just means that we have bad days.
It was important for Dad to help people. He wanted others to feel fulfilled and happy. He enjoyed hearing stories that were important to those he came in contact with and he wanted people to feel like the special humans that they are. The family was also important to him. He became the glue that kept our family together when my grandmother died. Unfortunately, my family has drifted further away from each other. I have a cousin who is married to someone that has no use for personal connection as long it doesn’t benefit them. Needless to say, that person is not one of my favorite people but my Dad would have found a way to embrace their status in the family. I have no use for status or gold diggers. To me, I’m the type of person that likes to accept people for who they are and not what they can do for me. I get that from my dad. Dad had patience. A lot of it. He was able to handle situations with thought and precision and he asked a lot of questions. I’m getting better about it but it’s very difficult for me.
If I can leave you with one memory in particular. When I finished my bachelor’s degree, I was hell-bent to graduate on my Dad’s birthday. I managed to achieve that goal. My dad was so proud. He wanted me to understand that this was just one stepping stone and that I had beaten the odds to get my diploma. He reminded me to never sell myself short and to reach for opportunities.
As I leave you with this final thought for the day, look around you. Are there Mark’s in your life that are making an impact? Do they have a disposition that you may take for granted? The names may not be the same. But the hearts that are touched live on throughout generations. How we treat each other is everything. Grow yourselves in love. Dad’s legacy was to treat everyone with kindness and selflessness. That’s a legacy I hope continues for years to come.