Father's Time

 As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking about my dad, the life he led, the choices he made, and his legacy.

Mind you, I’m not talking about money. In fact, I didn’t learn anything about finance from my dad.  Not that our family’s income provided a lot of “room,”—but Dad avoided big purchases with the fervor of Ebenezer Scrooge. However, he’d spend that much (and more) on small things (mostly books, which remain in jaw-dropping abundance in my mother’s home 18 years after his passing!).

My dad was a man of few words—spoken words, anyway. At 6’ 5”, he was an imposing figure, all the more so behind the pulpit from which he’d speak three times each week. He was a good speaker, though not a natural one.

He worked hard at it, studied his subject matter (hence the books), and practiced his presentation relentlessly each and every week. I always thought it odd that such a quiet, introverted man would choose that career, but it was something he felt called to do at an early age, though it couldn’t have been easy.

He had opinions but didn’t seek to impose them on others. Indeed, wresting opinions from him was difficult (and sometimes frustrating). Significantly, he walked his “talk”—his faith, his love and respect for all people, even those with whom he disagreed—and those were attributes in short supply, even then. He was always a voice of reason and tolerance.

Though I talked about my work several times over the years, for much of my working life, I don’t think my dad ever really understood what I “did.” Oh, he knew I worked for banks (when I did), figured that being a “senior vice president” had to be a good thing, knew that it had something to do with pensions (though he didn’t have one), and (eventually) grasped that it also had something to do with something called a 401(k).

But as for understanding what I actually did every day, well, he mainly cared that I enjoyed the work, that I found meaning in my chosen field, and that I was able—or felt I was able—to make a difference.

While Dad touched many people with his ministry, he touched thousands more with a random, almost accidental opportunity. Back in 1972, he was asked by a friend to write 13 guest columns in a denominational newspaper—an “opportunity” that went on for more than three decades (alongside his “day job”).

In fact, one of the great joys of my life came when 20 years into my retirement industry career, I was also presented with an “opportunity” to begin writing for a living—and my dad, though he surely didn’t always understand what I was writing about, could appreciate that I was eventually following in his (writing) footsteps. 

His impact on me and my life notwithstanding, I’m a different person than my dad, though his example is never very far from my thoughts. As a former child, I’ve tried to avoid repeating the “mistakes” my parents made—some of which, admittedly, in the fullness of time, weren’t mistakes at all.

As a parent, I’ve tried to share with my kids the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn), tried to spare them the pain that came with some of those, but also tried to give them the room they need—and deserve—to learn their own on the life path(s) they chose—though doing so is a life lesson of its own, and one with which I still struggle (just ask my kids).

I’ve tried to share with them some sense of money and its management, the thrill of having work that gives you joy (even if the where and who you do it with don’t always), the importance of having the right life partner…

Along the way, I’ve tried to make a point of telling them regularly how proud I am of them. But mostly, I try to tell them and show them how much I love them and do so as often as possible.

In this business, we tend to focus on things like bequests and legacies, the financial “leftovers” that are passed on to those we love. But those pale in importance and longevity to the legacy we can—and should—leave behind in the experiences and examples we pass on to our kids.

Love you, Dad.

- Nevin E. Adams, JD


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