My Father: No Ordinary Man Essay

My Father: No Ordinary Man Essay

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My father was a great fan of Mark Twain. He had a couple of Twain quotes he loved to recite, and one in particular he liked to recite around me:

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

I could never really think of dad as ignorant, even when I was fourteen. He was a walking encyclopedia, an encyclopedia I consulted daily. But he was an easy man to underestimate. In part this was because he was a great listener, and like all great listeners would rather hear than be heard. That was another one of his favorite Twain quotes:

"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."


But he was also easy to underestimate because he tended to underestimate himself. He would have been astonished, genuinely astonished, at the outpouring of love and admiration that has washed over our family in the last week. And there is enough of my father in me that I have been astonished as well.


Friends of mine, some of whom I thought barely knew dad, have called or sent word from as far away as Vienna and Taipei to say that my father changed their life for the better. My oldest friend, who is now a mountain climber and a nature photographer, astonished me by saying he might never have becom...

... middle of paper ...

...e Bailey couldn't see in the movie It's A Wonderful Life. George Bailey saw himself as a very ordinary man. And because he was a man of great intellect and potential, he sometimes saw his ordinary life as a kind of failure. It was not until the angel took him out of his own life and showed him the profound connections between his life and every other life in his community, that he was finally able to see himself for the hero that he was.

My father was a George Bailey. And just as George's friends came together and emptied their pockets for him when he was in trouble, all of his friends joined together in a celebration of his life. I only wish he could have seen it, because he never would have believed it.

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