From the age of 7, I was raised by my step-dad. My father was still in my life (still is), but the day-to-day job of raising me along with my mom, fell on her second husband. In the world of nurture-vs-nature, he was the nurture. I thank my father for passing on some decidely great genes, but my step-dad did the real work.
From an early age, I knew my dad was different from other dads. He came home from work on a Friday afternoon, took off the jacket part of his three-piece suit, rolled up his shirt sleeves, and pushed a mower around the front yard with his pin-striped vest flapping in the breeze. He never minded that the other 30-something men in the neighborhood were sitting on their porches drinking beer. He had a chore to do. As soon as I was old enough, of course, that chore became mine – that’s how I ‘earned my keep’.
When I was young, I thought all he did was work. Looking back, however, there was another side to him. Outside of the office, he raced an open wheel car around a dirt oval in Monroe, NC every Saturday. He could tear down and rebuild a carburetor in the kitchen sink (much to my mom’s dismay). His brother got him into the sport at the age of 36 and within a few short years, my dad was ranked 9th in the nation. One of my favorite memories was traveling to another state for Nationals and staying in a Holiday Inn with an indoor heated pool (what kid wouldn’t love that?).
Health problems lead to his early retirement from the C-level corporate world in the late 90s, but it wasn’t long before he was running his 20-acre horse ranch in Texas, which he did full throttle. Though my mom has passed on, my dad is still getting up at the crack of dawn to feed horses, mend fences, muck stalls, and mow the back acreage. He plays with the latest electronic gadgets, goes to Rangers games, and does a bit of international travel.
Looking back from my perch at the age of 41, I realize what he was all about. It goes beyond the work-hard-play-hard mentality. He took the example of his father, a World War II marine, and combined it with his innate talents to become a CFO, a champion race car driver, a rancher, and many other things – and he’s still going strong. Throughout his life, he has put his full energy and passion into everything he’s done. No half-measures, no timidity. Just pure, honest effort.
That is his gift to me – whole heartedness. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. If I give my word, I’ll stick to it. And if I face a challenge, I’ll see it through to the other side. Not everyone grows up with a role model in the house – I’m glad I did.