Dad has been gone for 16 years, and I miss him every day. He shaped me -- my passions, values and dreams. He also shaped me to be a rebel.
Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat. My Dad dropped out of school in eighth grade to work. But I never saw him without a book in his hand. He turned me onto Rex Stout mysteries; loved encyclopedias and the William Durant history series; was an information junkie about health and diet way back in the 1950's; and learned everything he could about the stock market when he turned it into a second career in his 70's.
He was a book hoarder with an insatiable curiosity. When he died, his library numbered in the tens of thousands, and he had read and reread them all.
Rebels are curious folks.
Never Remember A Birthday. My Dad never remembered birthdays or anniversaries. His daughters bought the cards and presents for my Mom and sometimes even forged his signature to keep peace in the house. We used to get pretty ticked off at him for what we saw as callous behavior.
Here is the the real truth. My Dad was a man who practiced constant acts of kindness. He just didn't do occasions. How he ran his business -- Harold Palokoff Fuel Delivery -- explains it all.
If someone needed heating oil, they got it even if they could not pay. When he closed down in 1970, he left almost a half million dollars in uncollected bills on the books because he would not let families freeze. Lots of people thought he was a softie and a fool. But, to lots of people, he was a hero.
Don't Forget Where You Come From. My Dad was born in 1909, the son of Russian and Polish immigrants. His dad was a hard-working junk dealer, traveling the roads of New York and Pennsylvania. And like many Jews and poor people, his family experienced harsh discrimination.
Here are some other parts of his story. While he was a teenager, the corner grocery kept his family and neighbors from starving during the Depression. At age 33, my Dad enlisted to fight in World War II even though he was exempt because of his age, being an only son and running an essential business.
He never ever forgot where he came from and that extended to his customers -- most were immigrants or minorities. He loved their diversity and saw them as part of his family. He was invited to their weddings, funerals and kitchen tables.
Most importantly, he deeply deeply loved America and truly saw it as the land of opportunity.
I am my father's daughter. My roots ground me. My clients are my family. And I believe deeply that I live in the best country on earth that is filled with boundless opportunity.