If you know me well, you probably also know a lot about my dad. I talked about him often. I’m very proud of him. He’s an old-fashioned gentleman, quintessentially humble, relentlessly supportive, incredibly resilient, and an all-around great guy. He’s a pleasure to sit and spend time with. I don’t know if there is anything I’m more grateful for than having him and my mother as parents.
Born in 1923, he’s lived through the depression; lost both his parents in a two-month period when he was 10 years old; was a running back (offense) and linebacker (defense) at Thorold High – never came off the field at any point and averaged two touchdowns per game; was in the army from age 19 to 23 during the Second World War; worked 43 years in a paper mill; was married to my mom for 62 years (until she passed away in 2015); raised four boys; lost one to leukemia; drove a car from age 13 to age 96; still lives in his house (with help); moves very slowly but is as sharp as ever. If you spoke with him, you’d never know he is 99.
So what does a guy who has lived through so much and is genuinely happy have to say about life? Here’s what he thinks has served him well.
Routine. “Ever since I was in the army, I’ve been a creature of habit. I think our bodies work best when we keep a regimen. To this day, I get up at the same time and go to bed at more or less the same time. I have a good breakfast and carry out my hygiene, in the same way, every day.”
Spirituality. “Another part of my routine is prayer. I say prayers every morning when I wake up and every evening before bed. I’ve attended daily Mass most of my life, and still do, as much as my situation permits. It’s the way I’ve always been and I can’t imagine being any other way.”
Moderation. “While I enjoy sipping a drink from time to time, I was never the type to overindulge with the guys. I didn’t maintain a formal exercise program, Except for a period in my youth where I trained with weights. But I was always active. I did physical work and I was always on the move – either around the house and the garden or with your kids. Even today, as difficult as it is with my arthritis and the use of a walker, I try to keep moving. Your grandmother used to say with her Italian accent ‘you sitta in the chair, you die inna the chair.’
Gratitude. “I feel so fortunate. At various points in my life, there have been people who’ve made a world of difference to me. I don’t think I’d be here without them. My parents, my sister (with whom he lived after his parents died), my wife, and these days, what seems like an army of people who look out for me, including you guys (his sons) and your cousin Mary. I’m so thankful for other people. I feel blessed.
Trust. “I never repeat anything someone has told me in confidence.”
Friendship. “I am friendly with everyone, but friends with few.”
Sports. “My escape is to watch a game. I live vicariously through the athletes. It’s so relaxing. It’s a break from everyday life”.
Money. “Being in a good financial position is just a matter of discipline. I would always consider what I was earning and look a year down the road to project how much money I should have saved by then. Some months would allow me to save more and others less, but by the end of the year, I should be on track.”
My dad has a little piece of paper in his wallet that is crumpled and worn because it’s probably been there for at least seventy years. It’s a quote he saw one time that meant so much to him that he wrote it down and carries it with him. Here’s what it says.
“You can judge a man’s character by how he treats those who can’t possibly do him any good”.
Words to live by. Words he’s lived by …. For almost 100 years.