This is a post I have been thinking about for over 2 months but this week provides the perfect backdrop to what I want to talk about: the characteristics of a gentleman. Specifically, the man I married and had children with. As a young woman, the things I loved about my husband hit all the “marriage material” marks: well-educated, hard- working, sweet, funny and eager to have a family. After 22 years of marriage, the single trait that stands out above all others has nothing to do with personality and everything to do with character: my husband is a gentleman. He can be trusted to consistently be fair, loving and even-tempered. He treats people with respect, no matter how he feels about them. And he never ever, not once, expected the world to hand him anything he wasn’t willing to work for.
When my Dad passed away, his best friend shared something about him that I wish I had known and been able to process as I grew into adulthood and tried to understand the man he was. His friend told me that, more than anything, my Dad was excited about having been accepted to Law School as a young man. It was his dream that, unfortunately, never came to be. Family obligations changed his fate and my Dad, ever the gentleman, honored his commitments and took care of his family instead of pursuing his dream. I found this out exactly one day after he died and for me, this shred of information explained the unspoken questions I had about my Dad for 45 years. Because he was a “man of the 1950’s,” I suppose it wasn’t considered appropriate or even relevant to talk about his dreams – he just got up every day and took care of his family. He could have been a real resentful jerk about his fate but chose to be a gentleman. That’s why I fell in love with my husband, I understand now.
I want our children to see their Dad through my eyes as they become adults and that’s really what this post is about. I want them to know absolutely without a doubt that:
- You are the Center of your Dad’s world – there is nothing he wouldn’t do to give you love, self-assurance, creativity, hope and excitement about the things you can do in this world with your one life;
- Your Dad is often incorrectly mistaken as meek and mild because he has a gentle temperament but nothing could be further from the truth. He is a fighter to the core and he’s overcome many personal and career obstacles fighting for you and our family. Your Mom quits things – your Dad never does;
- When other people are bragging and bullying their way to temporary, “better” positions in life, you can find your Dad quietly plugging away in his corner of the world, doing hundreds of small things that gentlemen do: honoring promises; finishing projects long after your Mom has given up because it’s the right thing to do; staying focused on what needs to be done today to reach that distant dream in the future instead of procrastinating (again like your Mom); being kind to people who may have hurt him or someone he loves instead of puffing out his chest and threatening them in order to make himself feel better (you know I do this!).
When your Dad is angry, he finds a way to resolve it and move forward because he knows in and of itself, anger will destroy everything in his path. Your Dad, the Gentleman, is a saver, a lover, and a person who takes what is before him today and makes something that lasts into the future. In his quietly determined way, your Dad is the strongest person I know. And he has never once bragged about that.
My hope for you children is that you will offer this wounded world some of your Dad’s fair-minded, even-tempered gentleness. It will serve you and those around you very well for the rest of your lives.