Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lessons from my father

I often wish I were more like my father.
My dad, James Albert Seitz, 82, is the rock of my large Catholic family. I’ve always admired his wisdom and his patience. He and my mom raised seven well-adjusted children and put them all through college.
Growing up, Dad had a way of taking emotions out of the equation when helping me solve personal problems. I liked to say he was the analytical German and my mom was the emotional Irish parent. He’s the yin to her yang.
He did lose his temper occasionally with me and my siblings, but I’m sure we deserved it. Sometimes when we kids got a little out of control at dinner, he’d pound his fist once on the table and we’d instantly shut up. I remember clearly how the dishes, glasses and silverware would sound as they rattled when he put his fist down.
I can’t recall him ever using corporal punishment, though he threatened to spank me by saying, “I’m gonna tan your rear end.” That was enough to make me behave (for a little while at least). His tone of voice was pretty convincing.
I also have never heard my dad use foul language.
When he swore, he’d say stuff like, “What in the Sam Hill are you doing?”
If I was being lazy, he’d say, “Don’t act like a bump on a log.”
If an older sister did something foolish, he’d say she was acting like a “dumb cluck.”
He was successful at whatever he applied himself to, whether it was investing, home repair or gardening.
He liked to track stocks he owned and those on his watch list by recording data on paper in three-ring binders. He charted the stock price action on graph paper. He was meticulous about it. It was both a hobby and a sound method of managing investments.
He was a classic value investor, looking for undervalued stocks and then buying low and selling high.
Long since retired from his job as a research pharmacist, Dad was a hard worker. He’d get up early while we were all in bed, have coffee and a light breakfast, read the newspaper, listen to AM news radio in the kitchen before work.
He provided his children with everything we needed.
My dad is deeply religious and politically conservative. He has a great concern for others and gives generously to charities. As for his views on government, he doesn’t like the way politicians use their positions for personal gain.
We all can learn a lot from him. I know I need to follow his example more.
Some of my fondest memories of my dad are of him coaching my Little League baseball team, working with him in our vegetable gardens, and watching "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" (though he often fell asleep on the sofa). I also remember our after-dinner exercise of taking brisk walks around our neighborhood in Libertyville, Ill. As a kid, I had a tough time keeping up with him. I still enjoy taking walks with him in the many parks in Lake County, Ill., where my parents live.
I know I wasn’t the easiest kid to raise. I got into trouble here and there, but Dad was patient with me and offered sound advice.
Thanks for everything you’ve done for me, Dad. And happy Father’s Day.

Photo: My parents, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Seitz, in Libertyville, Ill., in 2004.

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