The Perfect Father

When my father unexpectedly passed away last week, I felt shock, devastation, and disbelief. I also felt gratitude and love. In the days that followed, I have felt only partially alive. I walk the streets with the weight of my cheeks hanging on my face only vaguely aware of my surroundings. Since the moment I received a phone call with the tragic news, I have tried to process what happened, what my father means to me, and how I will live without him. My mind has been my heart’s worst enemy as I battle with regrets and what-ifs despite a remarkable life we shared that would be the envy of so many fathers and sons. But this is not a story of what more I wished I had done. A much happier story deserves to be told first.

My father was my best friend, hero, and mentor since the day I was born. He was a great teacher of lessons and a wonderful giver of advice. For these reasons, I want to share with you what made my Dad the perfect father. I hope my observations serve as a compass for parents seeking to fulfill their potential. I also hope my experiences inspire children to appreciate the many invaluable qualities in their parents.

dad and pretzel

How to Be a Perfect Father
Advice Based on a Lifetime of Experiences with my Dad

1. Listen. My father had such good listening skills. I always knew that no matter what happened in my life, he would listen. He kept me calm, told me I would be all right, and offered solutions if I needed them. I can still hear his voice: “Andrew, take the high road. Meet aggression with kindness. In a few days, you will forget it ever happened. No matter what, you’re still my #1 son.” Listen to your child. 

2. Participate. My father always made time for me. I can’t ever remember a time in my life — not once — where I asked him to do something and he declined. I remember one of the many times I asked him to drive me to a baseball card show on a Saturday morning, he was clearly exhausted from work and probably wanted to rest. That didn’t stop him. He didn’t hesitate. I remember that moment all these years later because it epitomized his selfless parenting. No matter what I wanted to do, he wanted to do it with me. Always. He threw a baseball to me in the backyard, sat me on his lap and read to me, taught me the value of work by modeling it in our yard, drove me to my first job, taught me how to write a resume, visited me at college, attended events I organized, and played a role in so many of my life’s events. We spoke on the phone every day and saw each other often. He made me feel loved and it made my life so much better. Participate in your child’s life.

3. Forgive. My father provided me unconditional love. There was no mistake I ever made for which he did not forgive me immediately. He never held a grudge and never showed disappointment in me. At times in my life, I was ungrateful, angry, immature, impatient, and close-minded. He never showed me that it bothered him. He understood me. He just kept being my father. Forgive quickly and keep loving your child.

4. Perspective. My father always had perspective and instilled it in me. I must have complained to him a thousand times about all things trivial. In his calm and measured voice, he settled me down. He didn’t allow me to waste time on pettiness. He taught me that we only have a limited time on earth and that we should use it for good purpose. My father didn’t yell or complain. He was patient and kind. He defined his role as a father and always stuck to his plan. Be a grounding force for your child.

5. Family. My father loved family. He taught me to do the same — to visit them, call them, write to them, and care for them. He would often ask, “Have you spoken with your sister?” I had but he always wanted to make sure. When extended family members were in the hospital, my father would visit — repeatedly. When I attended his aunt’s funeral as a child, I remember relatives telling him how incredible he was to spend so much time visiting her. He taught me to be there for people in their time of need. Model the importance of family.

6. Love. There was never a minute of my life when I didn’t feel that my father loved me. I spoke with my Dad a few hours before he passed away. I was preparing to move him across the street from me so I could make him food and we could spend more time together. His final words to me after I gave him an update on the move were, “Thank you. I appreciate it very much.” I appreciated him and he appreciated me. We were always trying to find ways to help each other. We loved each other and cared about each other every day. I always felt loved by my father. I felt loved too many times to count. Love your child immensely.

7. Humor. My father had such a good sense of humor. When he would talk about playing bridge, he would often say that the bridge players were “a real bunch of characters.” I don’t think he ever realized he was the biggest character. My Dad was a maker of lists and when he had a list, there was nothing that was going to stop him from checking off every item on his list, even if it meant driving people nuts to get the answers. I will always remember our adventures together looking for a new apartment or buying a car. All he was ever missing was the Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau magnifying glass. Actually, no he wasn’t. He had one of those. Laugh with your child.

8. Gratitude. My father taught me to stay grounded. He never asked for things. He lived a very modest life and taught me to do the same. I would offer to get him something new and he would reply, “What the heck do I need that for?” I guess he didn’t. He grew up in a different time period where people didn’t have or need so many things to live good lives. I always admired that quality in him and try to emulate it. I’m crushed that he passed away but thanks to the lessons he taught me, I’m even more grateful that he was a part of my life for so many years. Show your child how to appreciate the most simple things in life.

9. Self-Esteem. My Dad taught me to be proud of who I am. He taught not to want to be anyone else. I remember telling him that kids at school were making fun of my big nose and ears. He said, “Andrew, your nose and ears are a combination of your parents’ nose and ears and your grandparents’ nose and ears. Your nose and ears are very special. It’s not how they look, it’s where they came from that matters. Be proud of your nose and ears.” That’s all I ever needed to hear. I never worried much about my nose and ears again even though the teasing continued. Make connections with your child that build self-esteem.

10. Embrace. After my father passed away, I found a letter he wrote to a friend in which he discussed his disdain for a house guest who made racist remarks. He told her that he no longer would participate in any activities during which she was present because he was so offended by her racism. I was so fortunate to grow up in a household where I never heard either of my parents ever make a derogatory remark about a person based on gender, race, religion, or any other classification. My father once said to me, “Andrew, be too busy finding ways to maximize your potential that you don’t have time to judge others.” Teach your children to embrace all people regardless of race, gender, or any other difference.

11. Humility. After my father passed away, I found awards, photos of him in work magazines, letters, and several other accolades he never showed me. I had asked to interview him for many years and he had declined until I finally convinced him two months before he passed away. I never heard my father talk about himself or his accomplishments. He was so incredibly humble. He always just wanted to talk about me. Teach your child the importance of humility.

12. Happiness. In his final act of greatness and generosity, my father left a note for my sister and me in the event of an unexpected tragedy. In the letter, he told us that it is all right to visit the past from time to time but not to live in the past. I should have expected that from my Dad. He wants us to be happy. He was always so cheerful and positive. He understood that tomorrow wasn’t promised to him. His happiness made me feel better about life and enabled me to focus on doing good in the world. Be happy for your child.

I’ve been taking my Dad’s advice every day since he passed away. In doing so, I’ve learned a good father never really dies. And I’m still able to love him every day. It’s just different. I miss him dearly. Grief is a great teacher though. It has allowed me to view life through a more focused lens. I hope my view of the perfect father enables you to do the same.

29 thoughts on “The Perfect Father

  1. Andrew,
    I am so sorry for your loss. What a tribute this written piece is, and what a living legacy your wonderful father leaves this world, in you.
    Heartfelt condolences.
    Sherry

    Sherry L. Schlueter
    Executive Director, South Florida Wildlife Center
    sschlueter@SouthFloridaWildlifeCenter.org
    t 954-524-7464
    South Florida Wildlife Center
    3200 S.W. 4th Avenue Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
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  2. I am terribly sorry to read of your dad’s passing and can only imagine what it’s like. You are so extremely fortunate to have had
    A good father and relationship. Let’s just say there are many of us that have not been so Fortunate

    Thank you for sharing with us in this post. May the memories of him help you in this time of great loss.

    1. Very kind of you Monica. Yes, I’ve always been aware of how fortunate I was to have such a good father. My Dad inspired me to become a “Big Brother” and volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club for that reason — to help mentor children without a Dad like mine. Thank you.

  3. Andrew…
    I just can’t seem to find any words…I’m so, so sorry for your loss…what an amazing tribute to your father…just amazing.
    I know the only thing that will heal such a loss is through time…but it seems that the wisdom and insight your wise & loving father passed on to you prepared you well for appreciating the perspective that fate takes nothing away from us that it has not first given us.
    If only every child was as lucky as you to have such truly perfect father.
    Wishing you peace during this difficult time, Andrew,
    Christine

  4. There are no words more powerful than yours…your article is an amazing tribute to your Dad…
    I know your cherished memories will help to ease your sorrow and also give you the strength to continue on your life’s journey and follow in his footsteps…As you travel through life his “fingerprints” will show up when you least expect them!
    Take time to grieve , then remember his words…move on…be happy and remember you are here for a reason…
    Our deepest sympathy to you and your sister…our thoughts and prayers are with you😘😘
    Susan and Art Lippitt

    1. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lippitt,

      You treated me like a second set of parents when I was a child. I never forgot that. It is so nice to hear from you. It has warmed my heart.

      Thank you for your beautiful message.

      Andrew

      1. You are always welcome…..actually, you were adopted son…and you were always a pleasure to have around…
        Much love and many hugs coming your way!

  5. what a wonderful tribute to your father…he sounded like an amazing man….thanks for sharing Andrew.

    great advice for all of us who are parents.

    Lisa Turney – Toronto, Canada

    ________________________________

  6. I am so very sorry… Being in the “club” of us who have lost a parent is a horrible place to be. It’s been over two years since my mom left this earth, and in times of conflict, I still long for her reassurance in the way your dad reassured you. I know this piece was written as a tribute to your father, but it could also be (should be) every new parents manifesto. It sounds like you were very blessed to have a father such as he. Now I know why you are such a kind, empathetic soul.

    1. Dear Sheree,

      I’m very sorry for your loss. I know how you feel. Try to find that reassurance in your mind. The lessons our parents teach us and the love they give us never leave us.

      I’m glad you found the tribute useful. Thank you.

      Your friend,

      Andrew

  7. Thanks for sharing Andrew. I’m sure many tears were shed as you wrote this and what a beautiful tribute.
    You amaze me often and I now know who to thank for that. Dad!!
    Jennifer
    XO

  8. I’m very sorry to hear about your father passing. I believe his heart lives on in you. Your advice and encouragement to others sounds like what your dad did too. You must be like him. Y’all may look different on the outside, but looking closer on the inside….you may see the similarities. 🙂 Thanks for sharing..

  9. may you and yours have strength in your grief…and may you all have good health to carry on your Father’s good.
    I am forwarding this article to my sons & sons in Laws…May they take it to heart and learn from it.
    Sadly, my children’s father has been a poor example. My Daddy was a good man though; but my kids never met him.

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