Lessons from My Father

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how what I have learned from my father has helped me to live with rheumatoid arthritis. Actually, it’s not just really about the RA, but how to live well generally and embrace both the gifts and challenges that come with living.

As a little girl, I loved how I had blue eyes like my father (actually, I still love this!). I always thought it was a gift—something we shared, that he passed to me and that I would always possess. But he has given me so much more, likely more than we both can know and appreciate.

Live life well

My father taught me to enjoy a good meal, a nice wine, a beautiful view, enjoyment of music, and so much more. He taught me to appreciate the little moments and the big moments—that enjoyment can be found in the simplest things like shared company and playing a game of backgammon. He has a taste for the finer things in life, but also just plain natural beauty. Some of my favorite memories with him are just sitting in the grass enjoying a beautiful view together. I feel like I constantly learn from him to live life well and enjoy whatever beauty and grace we can find in this world.

But live within your means

My father is also practical. We all have limits—financial, physical, mental etc. And we have to do our best to know them, understand them, and live with them. If we exceed these limits, we will ultimately have to pay for it and it may not be comfortable or pretty. I may over-exhaust myself physically, and then be laid up for days recovering. It’s not always easy to know our limits, but it helps to live within them.

Keep on trucking

If there’s one thing I learned from my father, it is persistence. He’s a man who would set big goals and work slowly to reach them—like climbing all the peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. It was hard and it took him years, but he crossed them off one by one. Some people would call it stubborn as a pejorative. But if I wasn’t stubborn, I wouldn’t still be here. His example helped me get through seemingly endless physical therapy, to keep going even when I did not know the outcome—to persist.

Don’t let others tell you what is possible

A number of years ago my father wanted to grow grapes and make his own wine. Others said it was too cold, that the grapes would die in the winters or not grow well. But my father did it anyway and made his dream come to fruition. He heard what others had to say, but he didn’t let it limit him. Why not try? Why not confound what is known? Why not make the impossible happen? The lesson is we will never know if we don’t try. We may be surprised at what can happen when we dream the impossible strongly enough.
I’ve realized that I’ve learned a lot just from watching my father. He is a man of few words and doesn,’t express every thought. But through his example and actions I have gained strength and persisted to build a life that I truly enjoy. I can’t thank him enough for these and the other many lessons he has shared.

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