June 17, 2014
What Do Newspapers, Money Clips, and Garlic Have To Do With Life?
I lost my father when I was still a young man of 27. That’s a lot more time than many people get, but it was too early for him to go. I still had a lot to learn. But every year on father’s day, I celebrate the time I did have with him, and I’m grateful for the things he taught me.
What Did He Teach Me?
Silly things. Things like…
- How to fold newspapers perfectly so they didn’t open when I tossed them onto people’s steps.
- How to slice garlic so thin “you could see through it,” he’d say.
- How to keep your money organized, and all bills turned the same way, with all wrinkles smoothed out.
- The newspapers landed on the stoops and didn’t pop open; it saved me time.
- The garlic was uniform and could be put on sandwiches evenly, improving the flavor.
- The money I earned was easier to count, and I didn’t even have to take it out of the money clip.
As these lessons became ingrained in me, the process was no longer a chore, just something that had to be done. At the time, I didn’t realize the value of what he taught me; hell, I didn’t even realize he was teaching. Sometimes I thought he was just being a pain in the ass. Now, every Father’s Day, I remember.
I got married when I was 17. My first job was as a laborer for a masonry crew. I soon learned that stacking the bricks wasn’t much different than folding papers. If I did it, “just right” I saved time. During the next 40 years, I went through a lot of changes, from bricklayer, to homebuilder, headhunter, and now writer. The one constant was the things my father taught me never changed. Even now, as a writer, his lessons prove valuable. I know it doesn’t seem like those simple things have much to do with writing, but they do.
…Or to slice garlic (and tomatoes and meat).
…Or to organize money.
He was preparing me for life.
I don’t fold papers anymore, but when I write a book, the preparation is the most important part. And I do it meticulously, knowing it will save me time, just like folding the papers did.
When I get a new idea for a new book, the first thing I do is sit down and organize my thoughts, and I make an outline, and then I read through it and smooth out the rough edges. Just like organizing and straightening the bills in my money clip.
And the garlic…that’s for making garlic and tomato sandwiches, without which life would be meaningless.
So every father’s day, while I’m eating spaghetti and meatballs cooked with the recipe my fantastic wife cloned from my father, I think of him and say a silent prayer, and then a “thank you.”
At the beginning of this post, I asked what newspapers, money clips and garlic had to do with life. I hope the answer is obvious—everything!
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He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”