Today is my father’s birthday. If he were alive, he would be 102 years old. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 61. With today’s medicine and practice, he could have lived much longer. I woke up this morning, thinking about him. He was a gentle man, but he also had his Italian temper, “his fire for life”. Though short in stature, he was, nevertheless, a pillar of strength in our house. Neither he, nor my mom, went to high school, but both would be considered highly intelligent and learned by today’s standards.

Why am I speaking about my dad, 41 years after his death? Probably because I never had an opportunity to publicly expound his virtues, before this. He never had the education to help him understand the why’s and wherefore’s of life. He lived, worked and died. Within that lifetime, however, he showed his children what it meant to be a parent. We learned by his example, and what an example he gave us. Family was the most important thing in life. We lived, loved, laughed and cried together. Meals were not just times to eat, but also to learn. Mom and dad used mealtime, to pass on their principles of life to us. Laughter and education were as much a part of dinner, as were the spaghetti and meatballs. At the table, each of us would speak of what happened that day, and we would always learn something from it.

Sundays were always a special time for us. This was probably because dad didn’t have to go to work. After Mass, he would spend more time with his “kids” playing board games on the living room floor. Though we were at play, it was still a time to learn. You don’t cry, even if you don’t win. You always play honestly. Rejoice when someone else wins and is happy. These are things that you don’t learn from books, but from example.

Anyone, who is reading this and is a parent, or is about to be a parent, realize, that the responsibilities of parenthood are not supplied by teachers at school. Who is going to explain to your child how to act under difficult circumstances? How do children learn how to say “No” to drugs and alcohol? Who will show them how to cope with peer pressure? Who is going to tell them that they don’t NEED a cell phone at the age of 10? At each age, a different set of problems will arise, and those problems require a different set of guidelines and solutions. Solutions, provided by whom, if not by you?

Parenting is a difficult and ever demanding art form. It is not learned in a book, but in life. In order to be a good parent, we have to be a good person. We need to understand and work at the goals of life. The goal is not to be rich, but to be wealthy with goodness. The goal is not to be the boss, but to understand what leadership is. This wealth then spills out of us, to our children. They will learn from our example, not our directives. My dad learned this. How did he learn it? From whom, did he learn it? Probably from his parents and their example. For this, I will be forever grateful, and hope that I have learned from him. Happy Birthday, Dad.