Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Legacy of Resilience

Today, March 4, marks the date when my father was born -- 101 years ago. Wow... while his brothers and sisters were known for living long, extraordinary lives, my Dad had to pack an extraordinary life into 58 years. He passed away almost 42 years ago, when I was a little guy of 11 years.

Of the memories that I have of him, the strongest is how resilient he was. Let me explain, and how his legacy of resiliency carries me forward today.

The dictionary defines resilience as:
...that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.
I think of my father's history. He was the third of 22 children. He had to start working to make money for the family when he was 11 or 12 years old. He went to school, worked in his father's store, and when he got older, he worked a second job -- all to support the family. (His brothers worked, too. He wasn't the only one who did what had to be done to support his family.)

When he grew up, he got a job that today would require a college degree. But he didn't have one -- he didn't have the time nor the money to go to college.

He worked and worked and worked, and while working he learned at least four or five languages besides English and Italian, which he spoke at home with his parents. He had a natural ear for languages and also a natural ability with mathematics.

His first employer discovered that he didn't have a degree and hired someone else who had a degree and gave my father the boot. Rather than dwell in despair, my Dad found another job, quickly, where he was able to employ the use of his language skills and mathematics. He got tutoring from two professors at Columbia University, even though he was not a student. He became quite knowledgeable about applied mathematics in the field of economics.

His job transferred him to Washington, DC, in the late '30s. He bumped into my mother on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, dated and married a year later. They got busy having children -- my oldest brother and sisters.

Then World War II broke out. Dad, and eight of his brothers, went to war. He served our country with distinction and honor, and came back home alive.

Upon his return, his employer assigned him "temporarily" to work with a new organization created as a result of WWII where he was again able to employ his language skills -- which increased while serving in the Army -- and his newly-acquired skills in applied economics.

However, that organization told him point-blank that if he didn't have a college degree, that he would not be able to continue working after the initial short-term assignment.

My Dad picked himself up and enrolled in night school. Long before on-line college courses, the way for an "older" student to get a degree was to go to class at night. My Dad took a double-load, worked full time, raised 5, 6, 7, children, and earned his degree.

The organization promoted him, and he took an assignment that placed him in Europe for six months each year, and six months at home. He became a diplomat, and a great one at that.

My Dad serves as an example and legacy to us all -- and for his resilience, dedication and commitment, we have benefited.

I observed those behaviors and actions -- even as young as I was -- and listened to the stories about my Dad as told by my mother and siblings. He was a marvelous example of leadership, commitment, and of love.

Currently, I am facing some huge challenges both personally and with my partner's health. But if anything, I am resilient. I will survive. I have faith, and I believe. All for the legacy of my Dad.

Happy 101, Dad.

Life is short: live the legacy of resilience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You always remember. Our Dad left us with a mighty legacy. I cherish this treasure daily.

Ore e sempre,