He was a self-made man. A high school drop out who worked his way into owning his own company.
He was a gentle man. He loved his kids, his grandkids, great grandkids, nieces and nephews. Passionately.
He was a brilliant man. Harrah’s in Las Vegas once kicked him out of their casino after he beat them in blackjack for $20,000. He was counting cards, of course. We would also play a game as a kid. I would give him a math problem like 47 x 55. And he would figure it out in his head—within seconds.
By the way, I figured this math problem out with my calculator. 2,585. It took me a couple seconds longer.
Two quick stories on how he helped make me the man I am today.
It was the day to try out for the high school basketball team. When I heard the team had a haircut rule, I decided not to attend.
I had shoulder length hair, and it was VERY important to me.
When I told my Dad about my decision, he put down his newspaper and told me to get in his car. A green Cadillac Eldorado.
Our next stop was a barbershop, where he instructed the middle-aged haircutter of Italian decent to give me a crew cut. My tears fell mixed with the shorn locks that littered the checked floor.
When we got back to the car, his only statement was, “Now you have no reason not to try out.”
Of course, I went on to a successful high school career and received a full scholarship for basketball at Memphis State University.
A couple of years later, after my parents divorced, my Dad asked me to live with him for the summer of my 16th year and work for him at the printing company where he was employed. He ran the plate department in a nice air-conditioned part of the plant.
I showed up for work promptly at 8:30 a.m. He had already been there for 2 hours.
He asked me, “What are you doing here? You are working the second shift that starts at 4:30 p.m.” Of course I was not happy because this was going to cut into my summer nightlife. I had just gotten my drivers license and was looking to cut loose a bit.
Returning at the correct time, he then informed me that I would be working the worst job in the place. I was running the shrink wrapper (a machine that melts plastic and makes it pliable as it covers an item that needs to be protected or shipped).
The contraption spewed ungodly heat. And the factory was hot as hell.
After spending a couple of weeks in misery, I went in and asked him why he was doing this to me, and why I couldn’t work for him in the more comfortable part of the facility.
His answer was clear. “Son, I want you to know what you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.”
Lessons learned Dad.