It’s been 6 years since my dad died and today would be his 79th birthday. In that time I’ve had a bit of perspective on what he meant to me and how I (as a Dad myself) want to be like him and at the same time be better.
I think that focusing on my Dad’s early retirement at 60 as in my previous two posts has said much of what I can say about his life post-retirement. Certainly he had some nice adventures; and while he didn’t quite get to pick the autumn grapes from the vines at harvest time, he did a lot in the 12 years of freedom from paid employment before cancer came and ended it all.
But the memory of my Dad lives on and when you go to sum up someone’s life, you can’t count out how much they enjoyed themselves to work out if it was a meaningful life but it’s how you made the others around you feel. My dad as a teacher taught generations of school kids and I’m yet to heat of anyone who had a bad word to say about him (and he taught in a school that made a major contribution to the genre of literature called “catholic boys’ school abuse stories – physical, emotional and sexual”).
So if after almost 40 years at the chalk-face, he had become a bit disillusioned and tired from it all – what do you expect. But he still kept working sometimes once he was retired – picking up the odd day or week or month teaching in schools. Often he’d get the gig from head teachers he himself had taught.
As a father myself to two kids (the Master and Little Lady) I have a much better understanding of how my dad did his job of being a Dad, father, pater familias, da, patriarch as well as brother, son & husband. I only know realise how great he was – with boundless enthusiasm and warmth that made people happy. He volunteered a lot with after-school clubs and other groups. Something that I’d like to do myself but I see know how life can get in the way of good intentions.
He genuinely lived his life for others – albeit getting huge pleasure from doing so.
The Master was born a few months before he died and he’ll never know his grandad. In school they were talking about grandparents (and throwing them off public transport) and we had to explain to him what a grandparent is because living far from your own parents puts you in an isolated position.
Whilst there is a lot of support that grand parents can offer – nappy changing, babysitting and everything else – you can pay for the help if you have deep pockets. But it’s the company, companionship, love and care that I feel we’re missing. The bond between grandparents and grandkids is unique. I know that my Dad would have been great with the kids and they’ve lost something that they’ll never know.
I still have a warm memory of my own grandad seeing me and opening his arms wide and me running towards them and he gave me a great hug. You can’t get that from just anyone.
I am sometimes drawn towards the idea of becoming a teacher myself. I was actually inside the Master’s school last week as part of an induction for our Ukrainian guest’s daughter who’s off to school in August. I got a very strange feeling that you could be very satisfied working with kids – I do like kids I guess. If I had the chance (through fair or foul circumstances) to move into teaching – it might be a good choice in terms of life satisfaction.
So what did I learn from my Dad about financial independence?
First of all, my Dad’s work not only paid him but he paid back in what he did in making the lives of innumerable kids lives better. But he probably stopped working at around the right time – maybe a few years too late (especially with hindsight). He didn’t have a great handle on investing his money but this was back when mortgage rates were in double figures – so just by paying off his mortgage he was getting a better return than we’re getting these days.
Life isn’t about how much money you die with or how much you hoard. If your bank balance is full but your heart empty then you’re not winning the game.
So, I’d like to think that with the resources that I have, I’ll be around for my kids and be able to devote the time and energy to them that they need. Have the freedom of working flexibly to be able to take time off when they are off or sick and the financial freedom to pay for the better things in life for them.
I don’t mean to spoil them but give them the targeted spending that will broaden their horizons.
My own financial life has been more successful than my Dad’s. But money can only buy some things. He had a rich and happy life – a life that was filled with people and that’s often missing from many jobs – like being a cubicle worker in an office (done it) or working from home in splendid isolation. We need the company of others and I don’t want to go down the road of becoming financially independent and then socially independent.
So, I think that my father would be happy for me – not in a monetary sense for the Gentleman’s Family Finances are private to all but you my loyal readers – but in the life that we have. If I spent several years focusing on education then several on my career then several on my relationship (with the Lady) and several on the pre-school kids, the next several years are going to be devoted on being there for the kids when they need me and trying to channel a bit of the spirit of my dad into the lives of the Master and Little Lady.
I miss my Dad and feel sad that not only he suffered and died too young but that my kids won’t ever get to know him. He is though an inspirational figure to me and he lived his life not for himself but for others – and that’s something I hope he can still teach me yet.