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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

My father's greatest lesson

With the death of a parent, you do a lot of soul searching. You learn things about your mother or father that you didn’t really know before and get insights into why you are the way you are.

If you are fortunate, you learn something good.

My father died in August at the age of 84, and today is my first day back to work since then.

I learned my dad loved yellow flowers. I had no idea. I also learned that my father was well-respected and even loved in the Luray, Va., community. I kind of knew that, but it was still a powerful moment to see it on display and expressed by so many people.

The comment that was repeated over and over again by a wide range of people was how happy my dad always was. I wish I had appreciated that more. Too often I think, we remarked on his grumpiness as he got older.

But I asked my six-year-old, what did you like best about Papou? [Papou is Greek for grandfather.]

James didn’t hesitate: His smile.

The great lesson my dad left me that I think we can all learn from comes from his happiness and smile and that was his optimism.

He was always looking forward. He bought a new computer just a month before his death. He carried an iPhone.

He didn’t believe the best times were behind us.

I think about the great changes he saw in his life. His home didn’t have indoor plumbing until he was 15 years old. He first learned to farm behind a horse and plow.

In the 1950s, he went to Greece to help that country rebuild after the devastation of the World War II and then a civil war. He saw the aftermath of horrible things, but he also saw lots of people working to make improvements and to heal. He made life-long friends there.

Lloyd was always moving forward. It isn’t that bad things didn’t happen to him or to people he knew but it was his innate sense that things can and will get better. It was reflected in how he treated his friends and the community work he did after he and mom retired from the restaurant, particularly his work with Habitat for Humanity.

One person told my brother that when she was a little girl, she wished my dad was her father. Several people told us he was a father figure to them, mostly because he offered them advice and encouragement they couldn’t find elsewhere.

But Dad was no saint. We knew that he had plenty of faults, but who doesn’t?

As I settle back to work, he sits with me, reminding me to work hard, to make things better, and to not get discouraged. Things will get better.

So, I wanted to share that lesson because as we look at the challenges in the market and the nation as a whole, it is too easy to be pessimistic.

But remember, our nation has a long history of resiliency and bouncing back. More recent history saw us make it through the sequester and weather the government shutdown.

More tough fights may be ahead, and we’ll get through those too.

I know Lloyd would do that. He’d look around, he’d smile and he’d do something positive. That was just the way he was.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 02, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Reader Comments

Sun, Sep 7, 2014 Emma Sopko

Nick, very sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for sharing the bright and positive energy that your father clearly had.

Sun, Sep 7, 2014 Amy Fadida Washington, DC

My sincere condolences, Nick, to you and your family. Thank you so much for sharing such a poignant and inspirational tribute to your father. His memories, love and smile will remain within and all around you.

Thu, Sep 4, 2014 Jackie B Herndon, VA

Nick, I am so sorry for your loss. Great tribute to your father - thanks so much for sharing. It reminds me how special my own father is as we plan to celebrate his 78th birthday. Welcome back!

Thu, Sep 4, 2014 John Chantilly, VA

Wow. I hope that we can all aspire to have our son or daughter say something similar about us when we’re gone. He left a great legacy.

Wed, Sep 3, 2014 Bob Woods Lancaster Virginia

I am sympathetic for your loss. Knowing who your parents are tells you who you are. It also makes you want to be closer to your own children. Good to have you back Nick.

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