While I am known as a guy who is never seen without a gizmo in my hand, I actually think better sketching my thoughts on a yellow legal pad. Typically, when meeting with people they’ll see my iPad, smart phone, and computer closely followed by that very old school pad and pen, and only then can I work as well as I know I can. Not long ago, I was caught almost naked in my very own office without my legal pad in my bag, and as my mouth went dry with worry, I started going through my desk and filing cabinet looking for something to write on. I found it in the bottom of the small filing cabinet behind my desk: an 89 cent notebook purchased at Big Al’s. It looked a few years old, but that didn’t matter. I needed to find some blank pages to use.
As soon as I opened it, I knew this was a rare find. You know that phrase “this isn’t your father’s ____?” Well, this was my father’s notebook.
When he studied for his own real estate license at the age of 67.
His notes (in pencil).
All in that filing cabinet drawer for 25 years, never found before. It had been in my office for 5 years, and at my house for 20 prior to that, and no one had ever cleaned out that bottom drawer.
I do recall that in the winter of 1988, when I was a junior in college and my father had been retired for 5 years, he went for his real estate license. He never did anything with it, but he also hated sitting still. That was something about my dad. He had long since earned his privilege to veg out, but he wanted no part of that. He worked his way through Fordham in the Great Depression. He served in the South Pacific in World War II and then earned a Bronze Star in Korea. He raised 4 sons with my mother, all of whom graduated college although I was still a year away from my BA. He had an MBA from NYU (GI Bill) and was an accountant for over 30 years before being forced to take early retirement at age 62. He still had gas in the tank and wanted to do more.
None of that was on my radar at the time in 1988. I was off at Villanova doing what college kids do, and it never occurred to me what it would mean decades later to find a piece of my father’s efforts. Youth is indeed wasted on the young.
And here I was at age 45, still a year younger than my father was when I was born, finding this notebook and looking at his notes. He was doodler, and I could tell when he was bored based on how he wrote things and what he drew in the margins. I could see what he underlined and emphasized as important for future reference. And in between the lines, I could still smell the aftershave of a 67 year old man who wanted no part of being put out to pasture. He pressed the pencil hard.
Dad never sold a house. It wasn’t for him, but like many he got his license just in case it was. Two short years later, my healthy father who never looked his age was diagnosed with a liver ailment (ironic; he never drank), and after almost three years of fighting like hell, he died a few months short of his 73rd birthday.
There are times in life when I wish I could still talk to my dad. I wish I could ask his advice. I wish I could share his grandchildren with him. And I’d love to show him that all the things he worried about me didn’t stop me from growing up and making something of myself. I can’t do those things, and as I get older and memories fade he slips further away. Things like this bring him back. I’m not too sensible to believe that these things are like a wink from the other side, to let me know he still watches, still cares, and will never stop being my dad.
Of all the things I could have found of his, something real estate related. Yes, I think that was my dad winking at me.
Happy Father’s Day.