How Did My Dad Get So Smart?

My dad taught us right. He drove my brother and I to weekend swim meets. He coached our ball teams. He attended my sisters’ volleyball games. He was around a lot.

He also set high expectations for my five siblings and me. When we fell short and he found out, he would let us know. That often meant being grounded for a very long time. He made sure we remembered and changed our ways.

As strict as he could be, Dad was very supportive and led by example. He walked the talk. It wasn’t just lip service. Growing up, this could be annoying. Who as a teen likes being wrong  when you’re looking for ways to prove yourself.

As we grew up into adulthood, things changed. We saw some wisdom in him that we had missed before. My sister would call him Sabiduria or Wisdom in Spanish. She would quote Dad as if she was quoting something from the Bible.

We all felt that way about him.

If you knew Dad, you would know he was quiet and reserved. He was NOT the life of the party type. He would share with us these tidbits of wisdom we all remember.

One of his sayings was, “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.” Tell me who walks with you and I’ll tell you who you are. He hated when we hung out with kids that weren’t up to standards. That was a clear example of a community influence he knew would hold us back. These typically would be friends who were lazy, disrespectful, loud mouths or trouble makers. He would quickly size them up. “I don’t like so-and-so much,” he would tell us. He kept these pointers short. That was his mode of operation. He didn’t want to demonize them and thought best to let us to figure it out for ourselves. My gut reaction was to take offense. Later, and sometimes much later, I would pick up his drift and those relationships faded.

Dad once told me about a guy he knew in Cuba growing up. The guy was a cheat. He was always taking shortcuts. He would avoid schoolwork and take advantage of people. He ran into him many years later here in the US. He told me it took him a few minutes to reassess and he saw it. The guy hadn’t changed one bit. He was the same guy he knew in high school just older.

His advice served him well and served us well too even if we wouldn’t admit it.

Dad kept large 8 x 12 pictures of us six kids on the wall behind his desk. In the middle was his honeymoon picture with Mom.  Mine was my high school senior picture and it’s the same one he took down the day he retired.

One day he calls me in the middle of the day. “That’s odd,” I thought.” He never called me during the day. He had gotten a visit from someone wanting to buy from him. When the guy saw my picture he said, “That’s Jorge Diaz. He went to high school with me.” When he told me who it was, I said that of course I knew him. Then I said, “Don’t extend him credit.”  I was working with Dad’s advice from years earlier. I hadn’t seen this guy in decades, but he was same guy that always had a story, an excuse, a scam. He ended up doing prison time.

Dad was a real blessing to my sibling and me. He built that family community that I have worked hard to imitate with my wife and kids. In future posts, I’ll share other things I picked up from Dad.

What advise did you get from your Dad that you can share here? Let’s see what we can learn from each other.