Lessons Learned from my Dad

I have three brothers and one sister. Some of my earliest recollections as a boy are of my Dad’s preoccupation with walking.“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”-Thomas Jefferson  As if they had been specifically directed to him, my Dad took these words to heart. The only thing that my Dad despised more than his own automobile was the existence of other vehicles. He would habitually park as far away as possible from our intended destination. He would then make the pronouncement, “We’re here”. As my siblings and I learned early on, this statement simply implied that it was time to hoof it!
My Dad’s parents lived about thirty minutes east of Columbus. I can still remember those wonderful Autumn weekends visiting Grandma and Grandpa. We were in grade school when we first started to attend Ohio State football games. Grandma had been a big fan of legendary coach Woody Hayes. Well, my Dad had a master plan for avoiding the traffic and getting in some serious walking. He would park our car at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, a short 2.5 to 3-mile hike to the football stadium. Good grief! “Health is the thing that makes you feel that now is the best time of the year.”- Franklin Pierce Adams  The Fall months may very well be the perfect time in Ohio for any recreational sport. Yet, in the ignorance of our youth we never considered the beauty all around us as we pushed our bodies to their limit to keep up. Though often tired, frequently hungry, and seemingly unfit for the journey we nevertheless exercised faith in his plan. Dad instilled in us an understanding of the principle of endurance. Simply put, you just have to continue on the way no matter what. We had faith in his knowledge regarding where we were headed. Even though we could not see the end from the beginning, he knew the way. He’s always known the way. So, we followed. Dad would lead the trek with his long, powerful strides. Interestingly, he would always take a different route. We didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a method to his madness. He knew every street and back alley in the Columbus area. “True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body. The two are ever united.”-Wilhelm von Humboldt. Dad was learning everything he could about his surroundings each time he put his feet to work on the pavement. It would be accurate to describe Dad as a human GPS. Somehow, we were never lost even if it appeared that way. Dad had developed an ability to listen to his inner compass. He used to study maps intensely and was not afraid to blaze a new trail. If you happen to find yourself off the beaten path somewhere in the Buckeye state, just call Dad. He’ll lead you home. That is his ultimate goal. “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”-John F. Kennedy  In truth, we thought he was nuts! (Not just the Buckeye type, either.) But not many people can match some of Dad’s accomplishments. He has set foot and, yes, walked in 49 of the 50 states in this great country. His personal GPS performed miracles everywhere he ventured. He was a voracious reader. He once said that he wanted to know a little bit about everything. I can testify to the fact that he accomplished that task. I’ve never met another person so well versed on all things A thru Z.
There is no doubt in my mind that Dad’s love for being outside fueled his brain. In turn, the varied subject matter which he read filled him with enthusiasm to go out into the world and explore. He has always had a great desire to meet new people. He loves to share the many things he has learned with others. I am grateful that he shared his love for exercise with me. He never had to verbalize his feelings regarding walking. By his wonderful example, he taught me of its importance. I’ve been trying to walk in his giant footsteps for years. I have a lot of walking to do to catch up with Dad and even more reading. Dad taught my siblings and I about time and health. These two most precious of assets are barely acknowledged or fully appreciated while we mere mortals walk with ease through life. It seems that only when our hourglass has almost emptied its contents and when the body is depleted of its energy and resources that we pay them their due attention.
Mom passed away over four years ago. I am so thankful that Dad’s will to endure is as strong as ever. The lessons he continues to teach me are invaluable. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”-Jim Rohn  Though he has slowed down his pace considerably, my Dad is still my idol. If a bridge had ever been built from California to Hawaii, my Dad would have walked the 2,400 miles to visit that last state in the Union. His feet were made for walking, and that is just what they’ve always done!