“How I Stayed True to My Family When My Career Took Off” Featured on FATHERLY


Having reached the overripe age of ninety, I often wonder how my sons truly rate me as a dad. Did my dear wife and I do the right things in nurturing them, raising them, guiding them? Did they truly believe we were always there for them, rooting for them, understanding their ambitions and dreams? Above all, did we do the right things for them, make the right decisions, teach them values by example? Do they blame me for their mishaps and their occasional stumbles?

Believe it or not, I have never asked any of them those questions, perhaps fearing their answers.

An Ironic Upside

My own father was a low-level clerk who called himself a bookkeeper. He lost a promising job in the Great Depression and never recovered. He was poor and powerless and his experiences with “bosses” were toxic. He frequently talked angrily to himself and it was soon apparent to me from an early age that he was berating his bosses, arguing with them, confronting them in his mind, something he could never do face to face. It was pure fantasy, a common response to powerlessness by those paralyzed by fear.

The lesson of my father’s anger and frustration taught me never to find myself or my loved ones in that position. He was always at the mercy of others, and I vowed early on never to be beholden to others to make my living. Controlling my own destiny has always been one of my principle obsessions. My father’s powerlessness also taught me the value of setting your own course in your own way on your own schedule. In other words, I became the master of my own use of time.

While struggling to make my own way in the world, I worked hard to support my family, facing the economic challenges that came with the territory, trying desperately to earn the money to give them what constituted the “good life” as it was defined in the early half of the twentieth century. I cast myself as a very old-fashioned, traditional dad. I was the quintessential television dad: protective, supportive, authoritative, participating with my wife in every facet of their lives. My role, in the beginning, was straight out of central casting. I had a day job and my wife was exemplary in her loving devotion to our sons, a stay-at-home mom in their early upbringing and a powerhouse career woman when she entered the world of commerce.

*Originally published on Fatherly.com