Posted by: sistermom1 | November 25, 2012

My Father, the Philosopher

My father passed away in 2005. It was a challenging time for everyone, as it was preceded by him having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and we had several years interacting with his changing personality.   My father was the first one to ever say “It is what it is” to me.   I used to hate hearing that as a child, but now that I am older, I now use that phrase all of the time with my own kids. Of course they respond to it exactly how I used to. (“What does that even mean, Mom?”)

As I was straightening up my office/bedroom/work room this morning, I encountered a small piece of paper from my past. My father had once shared with us his Ten Core Beliefs.  I had typed them up Christmas 1991, and I found it this morning.  What an amazing gift/conicidence!  For the next few weeks I am going to write about these beliefs.   I feel honored to do it.  It gives me a chance to connect more deeply with my father, who I miss terribly, and remind myself about the beliefs’ meaning and significance in my life.

The first belief he shared was Winners are not born, they are made.

When I think more about this, it reminds me that despite the advantages that many people enjoy – even as a “birthright” – it does little to help them become a true winner. The universe gives us many gifts/opportunities if we are paying attention. Hard work is also required of us.  My father, the youngest of five, contracted polio as a child in Mississippi in the 1930’s.  His walking was dramatically impaired, and as an adult, he had a severely malformed foot, walked with a pronounced limp, and used a cane. Because of that, he decided that he would learn how to fix cars for a living. As a mechanic, he felt we would be able to stay close to home, and have a career that would not require him to move around.  His dad was an itinerant preacher – one of “God’s Trombones” and he was away from home a lot.  His mother, who he taught to read, encouraged him to push himself and not allow his physical limitations to determine what he could do. Ultimately, mostly due to her inspiration and great academic accomplishment, he left home and attended Morehouse College (double majoring in Math and Physics with  4.0 average), then medical schools at Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh, ultimately becoming a psychiatrist with a national reputation, and the love of his wife and four children (something else he never thought he would be able to do).

So what does “winning” in life really look like?

Through his example, Dad taught us that winning is completely up to us — no one elses opinion matters.  It requires a long-range view.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and to win, we must keep moving forward with a positive attitude, and specific goals in mind.  Dad was a scientist, and a Preacher’s Kid (PK), so his view of the power of prayer was a bit conflicted.  He hated how many churches of his youth used religion to manipulate and to keep people weak, but he also knew that prayer could be very powerful.  If we chose to do it, he supported us.  My Mom was also a PK, and she encouraged us to pursue spirituality on our own pathway.  One example: she took me to a Transcendental Meditation meeting the summer before my freshman year in college.

Whenever we encountered difficulty in school or athletically, Daddy would first hear us out, then question us methodically and thoughtfully about the problem we were having.  Was it really a problem?  Why was it a problem?  What options did we have to challenge the situation? How could he help us — what did we need him or Mom to do?  What would winning look like in this situation?  It was never ok for us to just blame the person on the other side, whether or not they were an authority figure.  He never gave us a solution, but always encouraged us until we found our own solution that usually required us to advance/mature/speak up for ourselves, and not that he or Mom would jump in and solve it for us.  For us to really win, we had to figure it out (using good advice), make a decision, and implement it.  This has really helped me over the years develop ways to make difficult decisions and move forward with a solution.  I do use it with my own children.   I am not sure it has made me a winner all of the time, but it certainly has left me with a positive perspective, and the respect of my friends and colleagues over the years.

Thank you Daddy for showing me that I can be a winner in my life at any time!



  1. Very powerful!!

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