The first time I encountered racism in the workplace (a co-worker was anti-Semitic), he was the one I called, angry and frustrated. Why would anyone say such a thing? It's so hateful, I just don’t understand! Because, he said, they just are uneducated. If you take the time to learn about another culture, you can appreciate them. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to support, but you at least will be wise enough to understand what is happening in the world. Never stand back and let someone be maligned if you can at all help it, he taught me.
When I was a child, he read me "Les Miserables" – one chapter per night. When we got to the part that found Jean Valjean stealing the silver candlesticks, I cried. Please PLEASE read just one more chapter, I need to know what happens!! Nope, he said. One chapter per night. Even though he read these kinds of books to his children, he still professed to be a simple man with a simple life.
When my mom got breast cancer, he became another man entirely. Formerly stoic and reserved, strict and old-fashioned (by that I mean 1700s Germany kind of old fashioned :) he became a man who realized that if you love someone, you had better tell them. Pronto. As she began to slip slowly from us, during all of that horrible time, his open affection for his children grew. I often felt that she bestowed that to him in her passing. She was always the one who said the sweet stuff, the one who acted is if just seeing our faces was a special surprise, even if we had just come in from playing outside. She was our light, our constant warm hug. So, now Dad had to assume that mantle, and to be honest, I would have never guessed that he would have tried. But he did. Now, every phone call ends with not only an "I love you" but also a big "Hey, I'm proud of you, honey." Really, Dad? I haven't done anything, just called to say hi. "Proud nonetheless," he says. And I, you, Dad. Thanks for learning to be the one that says those sweet words. Mama would be proud of you. xoxo