I am not a religious man. Nor do I consider myself particularly spiritual. Though maybe I am and have not learned to accept it. Perhaps the concept of spirit is interchangeable with the reality of attitude.
My father, not an educated man but sometimes a surprisingly learned man, used to talk about attitude. And how it was more than half the battle. He grew up impoverished and diseased. His first marriage, to my mother, ended after less than a decade and he didn’t see his children grow up on a daily basis. He missed a lot of the important things and he knew it. His first job in his lifetime company was as a high-school drop-out, driving a stick-shift truck with a polio-ravaged right leg. He smoked and he drank too much but he lived sixty-five years longer than he should have. And yet he rose to become president of a many-multi-million dollar company. He found love again that lasted until he died. And he got to know his sons pretty well over his last forty years.
He used to tell me that his attitude was all he had some times. And all these years later, I finally understand. I understand his attitude and I understand and respect his spirit.
His attitude and spirit got him out of bed at four in the morning to go to a job he loved. His attitude and spirit allowed him to drive six hours in the snow on Christmas Eve. And to do it again a few days later. His attitude and spirit brought sixty of his family members together every year, with individually wrapped presents for each of us. Personally wrapped. Sometimes not the right gift or the greatest gift but sometimes the unwrapping of a gift is more significant than that which is contained within the torn paper.
My father couldn’t run a year or two after he learned to walk. And yet he became an accomplished fisherman. Even if that meant manning the motor in the back of a sixteen foot boat. With a scotch and a smoke and a big smile on his face.
He drove thousands of more miles than anyone I have ever known even though sitting in a car that long gave him great pain. But it gave him less pain than stillness would have.
He danced badly, but he danced. He sang badly, but he sang. Sometimes he may have slurred a bit if he was too tired or had an extra glass of wine, but he always spoke sincerely because of his earnestness and his caring for others. It was his spirit and his attitude. A father and an eldest brother and a boss and a friend, it was mostly because of his spirit and his attitude.
It kept him alive and healthful, if not healthy, for an extra six decades. It kept a withered and stricken body and mind alive.
He’s been gone for nearly six years now. But as a departed father, he is still teaching me lessons. It used to be his attitude that did it. I guess now it is his spirit that is doing it. And for that I am thankful.