16 Feb Why I Write — A Tribute to my Father.
My dad had two rules:
- Don’t sit on his couch
- Don’t touch the remote
My dad looked like he belonged to the Italian Mafia. It was always great when a friend of mine would meet my dad for the first time. They didn’t know if they should laugh at his jokes out of fear or because he was genuinely funny.
My dad passed away following a battle with lung cancer. A few days before he died, the remote control wasn’t working properly. He asked me to get batteries from the cabinet. When I asked why he needed them, he looked up at me with a dumbfounded look on his face and said, “To put up my ass! Why else do people need batteries?”
I laughed, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Well… Looks like I’m going to get the batteries!”
My dad was funny.
He was funny in a line crossing, only-person-that-can –get-away-with-what-he-just-said type of way. Everywhere he went he was the center of attention. His own home, other people’s homes, restaurants, etc. He asked the right questions, said the right things and most importantly made everyone around him laugh.
He was an entrepreneur.
Not the type of entrepreneur we think of today, but a small business entrepreneur. Forty years ago my dad made a choice that changed how he lived his life forever. He had a great job as a supervisor for the Sweetheart Company in Chicago (now known as Solo Cup). He had a corner office and the respect of many who worked there.
He knew that wasn’t enough and that something else was out there, waiting for him. He put in his notice and opened up a travel agency in Burbank, Illinois. This was before the Internet was even close to being a thing, before the web was the only way to book travel.
He did this and many other entrepreneurial things, including opening up small stores within the mall and working in a corporate job during the last 7 years of his life.
He loved people.
My dad loved to give back. He loved pleasing other people. All my dad ever wanted was to make others laugh. That was his thing. He would talk to anyone that would listen.
He was a fighter.
He was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer six months before he died from it.
When he was diagnosed, he was given two choices:
- Do nothing and let the cancer take over
- Fight it
It wasn’t even a discussion with my dad. He chose to fight it.
For six months my dad went through planned and unplanned surgeries, procedures, treatments, chemotherapy and radiation.
I promise you that during this six-month period, my dad didn’t say one negative thing. He never complained about being in pain or having to go in and out of the hospital.
He fought it with style. He would go get his chemo treatment and then immediately go shopping at the grocery store when he finished. He pretended that nothing was happening with his body.
He planned vacations with my mother that they would take once it was all over. He would tell jokes to the nurses at three in the morning. It was in his blood to make everyone laugh. Even during his toughest moments, my dad was always true to himself.
Stories are important
There is a reason I created an email account for my recently born daughter. Every time something of significance happens, my wife and I send her an email with photos and stories. I think I’ll give her access to the email account on her 20th birthday, or maybe when she gets married or graduates college. I don’t know the answer yet, but when the time is right, I’ll give her the password.
I want her to grow up knowing what her story is. I want her to know why she does what she does. Too many people spend their lives trying to figure out what motivates them or their purpose in life and career. I’m hoping the emails will make it a little bit easier for her to figure it out.
I went to visit my dad at the cemetery a few weeks after he was buried. I walked around and saw the plaques over each plot.
I asked myself if everyone lives up to their full potential. Does everyone get what they want out of life? Do they have regrets? Do they have a story that’s going to live on for centuries?
Why I write
I write because for 67 years no one told the story of my father. Our family and friends, his coworkers and relatives knew him and could share stories, but it was never written down for the world to see. I’m hoping that through what I write, the world can see how great a man he really was.
I write because I was given the gift of being able to put pen to paper. I’m able to tell my story through my writing, and hope that I can enable everyone in the world to tell theirs one day as well.
I write because, honestly, writing is therapy for me. Writing allows me to see a world that I can genuinely say others cannot see. If I’m able to make sense of it all, I can only hope to give back the same way my father did and tell it to anyone who will listen.
I write because I want to write my story as it happens and not after it’s finished.
Jamiel Rizek Abed was 67 years old. He was born on March 31st, 1947 and died peacefully with his family around him on January 12th, 2015. He left behind a beautiful wife, 3 children and 8 grandchildren.
Thank you Dad.
PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.