The Things I Learned In Life

I’ve been very lucky to have a great family.

Most of who I am is based on the examples set, good times laughing about Monty Python, getting far too interested in who everyone’s dentist is, beaching it all day, all summer as kids, dinner every night at home with the whole family, the smiles and smirks, raised eyebrows and such …

It all adds up to a person!

I was lucky to be raised well. Sounds a bit like bragging; maybe that’s why people are reluctant to talk about how they are lucky sometimes. But it’s no sin to be happy, have what you need, and be grateful. Being grateful seems futile if you don’t tell someone! Gratitude is more than an attitude. It’s an action!

My sister Linda was my eyes for months, when I couldn’t see (20/400 and 20/800 acuity, cataracts). She helped me with everything! My sister Julie knows how to make banana bread and leave it in just the right location at just the right time; she nails the cooking and her apprentice daughter ain’t too bad either! Both of my sisters are wonderfully-involved helping my parents (mom’s 87, dad’s 91, but thinks he’s 92); I think they really are angels. Phil, my brother, and I are very similar in many ways, but then not in other ways; we both hunt down a good challenge and like to build things, and we both want to help people, make a difference. We’ve been taught to challenge not only each other, but my dad, who’s a formidable opponent. Maybe we’re both so much like my mom, we’d rather just enjoy his company than vie for his affection. Dad’s got so many stories I could listen to him for hours, which happens sometimes! Being older myself, our ages meaning less, we all talk more.

It’s never been better!

The things I learned in life come from these relationships. These are my supporters, my advocates, where I learned some of my jokes aren’t so funny, and how I know I’m doing okay, on the right track, not gone bonkers.

Here are some highlights!

1) Help other people. When I was younger, my whole life as a young person, I would meet people and they’d ask me who my father was, and then they’d say “He’s a great man! He helped me when I really needed it.” This happened so frequently it became part of my own character, part of the pride I carry around, something I protect. I learned to be proud is to do something you’re proud of, which involves other people being proud of you; the circle doesn’t complete if you don’t extend generosity to the world. My father is the most generous person I know.

2) If you appreciate someone, let them know!

3) Don’t sweat the big stuff! My father, as an attorney, met with all types of people; heard all kinds of crazy stories. There were, thankfully, only a few times I had really bad news to bring to him, a car accident or something like that; but when I did, he surprised me, because he would not get upset, but treat the situation more businesslike; he’d be calm, more-so the more serious the problem! He dealt regularly with important decisions, and is very comfortable in the middle of what other people would find overwhelming.

4) Politics matter. Politics was never my favorite topic, but I’m well-versed because I worked as a news reporter and my dad was a State Senator and Town Council President; I knew a lot of political people. Only recently have I learned to appreciate that a comprehensive understanding of the political picture makes more sense than understanding only bits and pieces. Politics is like sales; no-one likes it, but everybody does it.

5) It’s OK to take your family for granted! It’s actually impossible not to. Family members give each other assistance, time, patience, advice, and lots of other things! I got a new pair of shoes just yesterday! If you’re really lucky, one day you may realize it’s impossible to ever repay all this generosity. It becomes a sense of loyalty; when we all have our own families and lives, moved out and apart from our parents, we have new people, less time, and only so many words. We move forward with a built-in sense that “they” are always there.

6) Repay. With the above generosity of spirit in mind, even just a smile can complete the circle. That’s how it works; sometimes the “value” of things becomes making the other person happy. Keep the circle going!

7) Everybody gets hungry. We’re Italian. You’ll go home with a bag full of leftovers. It’s on purpose.

8) Cars make the world go ’round. Cars have always been important in my family. I don’t know how this happened, but you have to do something fun when you create a mini-empire, like my brother and father in real estate and radio! Dad had three Ferraris when I was in grade school. Phil’s gone full-electric. We had one of those first Prius’s; it was green and looked like a little bug; I remember Philip teaching me to drive a stick in a little yellow Subaru when I was in high school. Mom had a 12-cylinder Jag that had perfect, smooth acceleration, but which she hated because it attracted unsavory mechanics! I once got pulled over 30-seconds after leaving my house in Watch Hill because the cop suspected I’d stolen the lovely black BMW 5-series I was piloting. What a ride!

9) Don’t apologize for who you are! We don’t talk about discrimination, but we’ve been discriminated against. It’s years in the past, and meaningless, but many Italian immigrants (my grandfather came to Ellis Island from Italy) can attest to unfair treatment. One and two generations of my family before me built golf courses, roads and beach attractions; it’s the town you see today. We’re proud of our family tree!

10) Show up, and try to be on time! In this world of impersonal data-driven communication, my father doesn’t do texts. I think it’s just one too many steps in the wrong direction, as he prefers a voice on the other end of the phone. We talked for hours recently while he was otherwise isolated in rehab. People everywhere are suffering from lack of social interaction, and you can’t see smiles underneath all the masks! For me, seeing people’s faces is the missing piece; it’s the thing we really need.

11) Make eye contact, pull your pants up and speak clearly! Oh yea. These things! We all comply!

12) Call mom. If I ever get a tattoo, it’ll say “call mom.” That’s the most important thing I learned.

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