My dad passed away more than 3 years ago. There isn’t a day I haven’t missed him. In addition to way too much financial help for a man my age, he gave me many great stories. Some were very funny, others were inspiring. Some were both. The following story is one of my favorite and contains the best piece of advice Dad ever gave me.
Dad and his brothers had a meat packing plant in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. It specialized in hams and other related pork products. Which is where I grew up. Dad was Vice President in Charge of Sales and it was his job to drum up business, often by spending hours on the phone.
There was this man in Mobile Alabama, I believe his name was Dave just like my dad’s, but I could be mistaken. But we’ll call him Dave for the purposes of this piece anyway.
Dave owned a small grocery store in Mobile and Dad was trying to sell to him for many years. The routine was pretty much the same. Dad would call him about once a month, give or take a week. The conversation would more or less go as follows.
Dad: Hey, Dave.
Dave: Hey Dave.
Dave: How ya making out today?
Dave: Pretty good. You?
Dad: Okay. Can ‘t complain. Who’d listen?
Dave: (chuckles) That’s about right, Dave.
Dad: Dave, you okay in the ham department?
Dave: Yeah, Dave. We’re still using the same guy. He’s been pretty good for us. But feel free to keep in touch.
Dad: I’ll do that, Dave.
Dave: Okay, then. Talk to you soon.
Dad: You got it, Dave. (They both hang up)
This went on for years. Dad would call Dave at least once a month without fail.
Then something happened.
Dad was having problems with his knee and had a knee replacement. By this time, he was the only brother in the business as the rest had either passed away or were too old or sick to work. Dad closed the plant with every intention of reopening it after his surgery.
But it didn’t quite work out that way. The surgery was not a success and dad seemed to be having more problems than before. He decided to close the plant and hopefully close it. After being away from the plant for months, one of the first things he had to deal with was months of answering machine messages. At some point he got to a message from Dave.
“Dave, this is Dave from Mobile. Our distributor recently went out of business and we are in need of a new distributor. Please call when you get a chance.”
Dad never told me if he actually called Dave back, but I assumed he did. He probably told him they were going out of business and the two had a good laugh about the bad timing of it all.
I’ve told others this story and some saw it the way Dad and I saw it, which I’ll get to in a second. But most responded with something like “Oh, gee, what a missed opportunity”
But Dad didn’t see it that way.
Dad was a good one for repeating stories and in the few years before his death, as he got sicker and sicker, he understood that I was serious about my writing. He always respected my intelligence but took a while to get that part of me. And when things got discouraging, he would dust off that story and bring my spirits up.
You see, in Dad’s mind the story was not about missed opportunity. It was a validation of his life’s philosophy.
Never ever ever ever give up.
It didn’t matter that Dad was out of business and Dave had most likely found another supplier.
What mattered that Dad’s efforts were not in vain.
I’m 53 and still struggling to become a successful writer. I’ve published a number of things in the last ten years but I have yet to make a living at it. But I keep on struggling because I know deep down inside that whatever I do will not be in vain.
I know that cause Dad taught me it. So it must be true.