95 years and 10 days

In my dad’s 95+ years, he (as you might suspect) saw quite a bit! One day, a few years ago (after I had moved to Florida to help care for him), I walked into his home that we were now sharing and he was watching a Yankee game. He quipped that one day, when he was 9, he was in attendance at Yankee Stadium (he grew up in the Bronx and later in Brooklyn) and saw Babe Ruth hit two home runs that day at the Stadium! That might help to put into perspective his birth 1916. Do the math,  this happened in 1925!

One might also contemplate that his health throughout his long life was fairly good as he was born before the 1918 “pandemic” and of course, he survived that illness which took so many Americans at that time. That’s why I didn’t worry too much when a few years ago there was a “scare” of a similar event.

A few highlights of his life I want to share with you in this message,  that may hopefully enrich your day as you read this include – in 1938 after enduring the hardships of the Great Depression (his family really had nothing) and, seeing the rise of Hitler in Germany, my dad wanted to enlist to serve our nation. There was only one problem… he was Jewish and had a clearly Jewish last name. The Army would not accept him! Yes, prejudice and intolerance extended well beyond Hitler’s Germany (and in many ways still does today). He changed his name to one that did not sound Jewish, and in 1942 enlisted in the army. He was assigned to lead an all black unit of enlisted men to oversee as an officer – perhaps they figured out that he was Jewish and this was their way of treating him?? I am not suggesting that leading a squadron of black men should be a punishment, but, in those days, it might be how the military operated. Blacks, as you may know at that time were segregated in the Army – thanks to the “wisdom” and insight (actually, intolerance and bigotry) of Woodrow Wilson.  By all accounts, his men and he got along well, I don’t believe he ever lost any under his command and they respected him.

Think entrepreneurism is something new? In the early 1960’s, my dad started his own chemical supply company.  He was raising a family of 3 boys – and we were a handful – and frankly so was my mother! In 1966, he decided to “move up” to a town called Livingston in New Jersey and extended himself to make the move. A jealous colleague insured that my dad lost his job at the same time. So… at the age of about 50, with 3 minor children, a new home that he really had to push to afford and pay off, he found himself jobless! Fortunately, he had the initiative to start a company, one that (without benefit of the Internet which was not to be commercialized for another 27 years), he “hit the road” and built an income – one that provided for him and his family for the rest of his life. (Wonder why I’m soooo strong on becoming an entrepreneur AND helping others to do the same???)

As I graduated from college in 1981, my parents retired to Florida and moved through a number of homes. They had many good years together and even traveled the world. By the late 90’s, my mother was on the decline with Parkinsons. Her passing ended their marriage of 59+ years in 2002 and a career (on the side) of playing duplicate bridge.  (I even found a course he wrote on the subject and used as he trained others in the play of this rather intricate game.)

Despite being in his 80’s at the time, my dad, with a “never quit” attitude cared for her for about 3 years – even carrying her to bed and to the shower as she slowly declined. In the process, he ended up breaking down his body further (he always was a “couch potato!”) This made his final years rough as he was walking with a walker when I came to Florida in 2006 to live with him. From periodic visits since her passing, I saw enough of a decline in 2006 where I knew it was my role to move in with him to help him remain comfortable and dignified in his decline.

His mobility declined in steps as his body slowly failed – and as life has it, alzheimers stole all but his most consistent memories. To his passing day, he remembered who I and my brother are.  Even with his limitations, he served as Secretary to his condo association until 2009.

My belief system comforts me to know where he is and that he is no longer in pain or affirmed by a failing, mortal body. I know that someday I and my brother will see him again. At his funeral, the rabbi said we are accorded “3 score plus 10”, meaning 70 years, he lived 25 years beyond that, a testimony to the good he did during his first 70 years. However it happened, I’m certain he did lots of good and was always thought of highly by his peers.

He was not perfect – no man is. He had much to give and as he could, gave freely. I learned from him and I know my brother did as well.

Having read this, you perhaps have gained insight into my dad’s life, but also into that of mine and my brothers and you perhaps understand why we are both entrepreneurs AND why we have little regard for excuse makers, whiners, and cry babies.

In my “line of work”, I am always looking for leaders or developing people who wish to become leaders. The others can fall by the wayside…that is just who they are and frankly, life is too short and precious to worry about those who will not take action to help themselves.

For those who DO wish to grow, develop and build business (preferably WITH me!), I welcome you and look forward towards building mutually profitable relationships with you. THAT is why you hear from me as often as you do! The cream always rises to the top – and that’s what I’m looking for – the cream of the crop!

And for those who took the time to read this, I hope you’ve been blessed and at least enriched by it. Feel free to email/call/text me and ask me whatever, including sharing more stories of what I learned or what my dad experienced for the better part of the past CENTURY.

As I build business into this holiday season and in preparation for the economic winter I believe is just months or a few years off…I will be helping those working with me to grow and thinking of both my dad and Him in whom I trust and believe.

Alan Sills

11.13.11


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