Author’s note: My 88-year-old father is also a Catholic priest. As a widower, he entered the seminary at age 62 after running his own business for years. At age 65, he graduated with his master’s degree in theology and was ordained a Catholic priest. His experiences of growing up in the Depression, serving in WWII in China, raising six kids, having 18 grandchildren, and running his own business have given him insight, wisdom, and a great sense of humor about life. Here I share short wisdoms from my father the Father.
“I think most of my life I have always had one good friend,” my dad said to me as we discussed the importance of having a friend in one’s life.
“How would you define a friend, Dad?” I asked.
“Well, a good friend is someone that you can let your hair down with. You share the things that come to your mind that you wouldn’t want to talk to your mother, father, or even your sisters or brothers about. A friend is someone you can laugh with about the things that happened to you together. And most importantly, you know that if you called them, they would show up,” he responded.
He sat at the table quietly with his steel blue eyes gazing and said, “I will tell you Mike, I don’t know of anyone that values a friend as much as I do. So many people don’t have a good network of friends, confidants, or mentors in their lives. And one of the things I am suffering from right now is that many of those people I would talk to have passed away. Most are gone.”
He continued, “There was a poem I read in high school titled ‘The Last Leaf,’ which I think would be a good allegory for a generation of people.”
“What you have to remember is to have a good friend you need to be a good friend,” he said.
All my life I have known my father to always have a close friend and he practiced that core belief: to have a good friend you must be a good friend.
I think today might be a good day to ask ourselves, “Am I doing the things necessary to be a good friend?” Or, “What do I need to do in order to have a dancing partner like Lucy?”
I hope your day has a close friend in it. Feel free to share this with your friends. I leave you with the poem my dad read 70 years ago that made him think of his friends and all those of his generation.
“The Last Leaf” by Oliver Wendell Holmes
I saw him once before,
As he passed by the door,
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o’er the ground
With his cane. They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of Time
Cut him down,
Not a better man was found
By the Crier on his round
Through the town. But now he walks the streets,
And he looks at all he meets
Sad and wan,
And he shakes his feeble head,
That it seems as if he said,
“They are gone!” The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest
In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb. My grandmamma has said–
Poor old lady, she is dead
That he had a Roman nose,
And his cheek was like a rose
In the snow; But now his nose is thin,
And it rests upon his chin
Like a staff,
And a crook is in his back,
And a melancholy crack
In his laugh. I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
At him here;
But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
Are so queer! And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough
Where I cling.
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