My Father was known for saying “I have had 2 loves in my life- my shoe factory and my family – and not in that order“
I guess he said it once in the company of my mother and he had the presence of mind to add the last part before he sat back down beside her after receiving an award, to avoid losing one of those loves right there!
To be sure, Dad had a profound influence on me in so many ways, but these days upon reflection, I have come to realize that none greater than in these words I heard countless times.
While the words inspired me in so many ways, what Dad failed to share was that the limitations of the focus of one’s love in this way will also lead to crushing heartbreak.
There have been moments where my family and career have not evolved in the direction I had aimed for.
I don’t for one second believe this to be unique, it happens to us all and I know it happened to him.
However depending on the perspective I take, those episodic detours are rarely more than Montreal potholes, and thankfully by comparison, fewer and farther between.
Unless of course, my perspective is oriented from the view of perfecting family and career as my destination. In which case the journey will feel more like permanently driving along St Laurent in the spring,
Dad got that part right, he understood the “journey not destination” idea.
He focused on the principle that yesterday’s damage could be the source of regret or the inspiration of learning and growth. So as he remained focused on his two loves, he evolved and learned
The heartbreak I speak of is more along the lines of limited focus colliding with the advancement of years. And further the identification of one’s self uniquely through these pursuits.
Another thing he used to say was ” I can only do one thing at a time”
While this seems like sound advice, the challenge for him came when the 2 things he focused on naturally and organically ran their course.
There is a life cycle to everything and one day “children” leave and businesses change.
Anything left in a state of perpetual growth soon overshadows the realities of natural selection and becomes a threat to itself.
Whether ego, lust or greed is at the source of the quest for more, so often we witness how, what was once simply the desire to do our best refracts our light into the warped and self blinding delusion of endlessly more.
Thankfully I never witnessed this in my father.
What I did learn from his heartbreak was lost on me until a recent conversation with my eldest.
When the shoe factory closed and the family scattered my father’s “2 loves” became only memories.
His passion for people and his joie de vivre faded.
For the longest time I blamed the natural results of the aging process. But in truth that was an unsatisfying answer for decades.
Because by contrast I saw one of his friends lit up well into his eighties.
Morty and Dad were close because they shared the values of work ethic and family.
The difference was Morty prepared for the natural changes in focus, that life forces upon us. And he did so prior to their arrival. Yet Dad chose not to be distracted by the inevitable, thinking he would muscle through it.
On the other hand, long before he handed the reigns of a thriving retail concern to the next generation, Morty made sure he had another “love” into which he could invest is passion.
My Father’s “two loves” definitely defined his focus and ergo his life. And doing “one thing at a time” certainly made him the best father I have ever met and successful in business.
However neither of these roles were destined to be lifetime positions in the way he hoped.
My eldest is moving out on Monday.
The void I feel already reminds me of the hole my dad left us in my world.
The feeling is similar but the reality is that the stark difference between the source of the similar feeling, is my father’s life ended and in many new ways my daughter’s is just beginning.
Nonetheless one of “my loves” is now changing.
Prior to her departure she and I have been getting together in part fueled by my fear of “who will I be in the absence of my family?”
As we sat for lunch this week she helped me understand that work ethic may be a competitive advantage in the labour force but cannot be leveraged to avoid life’s twists and turns.
“ I agree dad, that loving what you do for work is the ideal career path- but where we differ is the ideal career path is not a replacement for love” she shared.
She went on ” I want to leverage my career skills to live life to the fullest, I want to use my career to experience all I can of life”
My dad’s paradigm shifted in my head.
At that moment I saw my father who lived life through his career and I saw my daughter who wants to use her career to live her life.
I understood the heartbreak I saw in my father after he retired and his family left the nest.
For me it instantly became about seeking to experience other passions, memories and lessons.
We are inundated by media and politicians about the nobility of lives focused on Family and Career. Yet based on everything we know the integrity of media and politicians should be out first clue that this is a dangerously limited influence.
So perhaps once again i should call into question the source of my perspective and ask myself the question- why would I want to experience only those two loves when the options are limitless ?