Stumble to Rise is about my life but like all of us, I’m a compilation of those who’ve influenced me. I feature one of them today: My Dad — Max D. Whitlock. Both of my parents greatly inspired me. But it’s my dad, in particular, whom I’m most like.
Due to the cruelty of Alzheimer’s, Dad won’t be able to read this. If he could, he would get a great kick out of it. As I explain in my book, he doesn’t know me now and is not able to transport himself from the bed to the toilet without the aid of a Hoyer lift or at least two very strong helpers. His story is not ending as he had hoped. The solace, however, is that he lived his dream life with complete joy and love!
Because he played such a formative role in my world and therefore in my book, I thought it only fitting to share 10 things about him that have influenced who I am.
My Father… 1. ...loved my mother intensely. I always knew that their relationship was the backbone of our family. I took comfort in knowing their love came first. Until he could no longer remember my mom, he looked into her eyes and told her daily that she was beautiful and he loved her. He did this openly but seemed to tune out everything around them at that moment — focusing only on my mom. It was as if the two of them were momentarily transported into their own bubble. Dad showed me the kind of love I deserved. Thanks to him, I found it with my husband of now 27 years.
2. …wrote daily letters to my mom starting the first day he was stationed in Japan — just one week after meeting her. They courted via US mail and he even proposed in writing. My mom kept his beautifully written letters hidden all these years. Yes the letters will be the center of a future book.
3. …was highly intelligent and was usually reading three or four books at once. Growing up, there were books everywhere. I’ve found that most people are good at math and science or English and literature. My parents greatly excelled at both which always amazed me.
4. …was the most compassionate person I’ve ever met. He rooted for the underdog. He was open-minded and non-judgemental. He gave to organizations that helped those who needed it most. But it went much deeper than that. He supported anyone he came into contact with in whatever way they needed. If they needed a car, he provided it. If they were strapped for cash he gave it. If they needed a place to stay, my family took them in — several of whom didn’t want to leave and remained with us long term. He often hired unappealing and unemployable individuals. He would find that person no one else believed in and would give them a shot — the disabled, the ex-con, the unskilled. He changed many lives. A few took advantage of him but it didn’t change how he operated.
5. … was always scheming and kept a notebook at the kitchen table where he recorded his ideas. Like I explain in Stumble to Rise, he didn’t act on every single one of them but in total he started and operated at least a dozen different businesses (with my mom organizing the details behind the curtain). One of the first, Dead Eye Mfg, was a company that made slingshots; all because he couldn’t find a good one for Mom’s then 15-year-old brother. There were five-locations of Karpet Korner plus Office Furniture Warehouse, Baron Stove Co, Rug and Tile, Hardwoods of Illinois, Hill City Raquetball Club, M & M Forklifts, to name a few. He worked for himself his entire life. Coincidentally, I inherited that gene and can’t imagine not being my own boss.
6. …was a master of PLAY! He created a home centered around fun that kept us and many of our friends nearby. On our 25 acres we had pinball machines, ping pong tables, a basketball court, tennis court, steel-constructed jungle gym, three wheelers, bicycles, board games galore, tandem bikes, recumbent bikes, sleds, washers, yo yo’s, tetherball, volleyball, pogo sticks, stilts…you name it. He worked hard and played even harder which made for an extremely fun childhood.
7. …never wasted his energy on worry. As a risk taker, he expected to stumble in business and in life. When things went wrong, he smiled, recalculated and kept going — learning and loving along the way and never taking himself too seriously.
8. …ran two miles every other day for 40 years! It didn’t matter if the weather was rainy or cold or hot. He ran. He knew the power of exercise. He didn’t stop until he was 84 and couldn’t remember his way home from the old road behind our house.
9. …was always up for adventure! He adored spontaneity. Family vacations weren’t planned. We got in the car and decided where to go. When I was six, and my two sisters were preteens, my family spent a month in Europe never knowing where we would lay our heads each night. We winged it and made great memories. He said that was half the fun.
10. …would announce daily…”It’s a beautiful day!” I would usually say, “But Dad, it’s raining” or, too hot or too cold…to which he would reply, “Oh that doesn’t matter!” He believed every day was a gift and that the world was made up of mostly good people. I agree!
Thanks Dad for telling me every day how much you loved me and for making me the person I am today. I’ll forever be proud to be your daughter!