That “Can-Do” Spirit

…with tears rolling down his face. That’s how I like to remember my dad. Oh, not caused by any kind of sadness, but from a joke he had heard from a worker coming  through his cafeteria line. Daddy loved jokes, and he loved bringing most of them home to the family…those he could repeat. And those that he could repeat he related to us expertly…to a certain spot.  Right at the moment where he came to the punch line, the grand finale, the great denouement, Daddy forgot the end of the joke every time. Oh, he remembered that it sure was funny, and he would laugh and laugh until the tears streamed down his face. And his children would laugh just because he laughed.

Daddy had enough sadness in his early life. He spent the first 14 years of his life in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York City. For the next 21 years, until he met Mom and settled down, he roamed the world working here and there and finally becoming an accomplished chef and a wanna-be farmer.

If my father had taught me nothing else, his modeling of a positive outlook on life would have been enough. Time and time again, Daddy would say, “If you got a house, if you got a car, if you got kids, you got problems.” And yet, no problem was ever too tough for Daddy. It didn’t matter that he knew nothing about milking cows, planting a field or baling hay; with his positive outlook, Daddy took on all his problems with a “can-do” spirit.

Through Daddy, I learned that when I approach a problem with a positive attitude, the result is so much better than if I allow pessimism and negativity to take hold of me. That’s part of the lasting legacy that I received from Daddy. That’s what I want to pass onto my children. That’s what I want my children to learn and to pass down to their children so that my daddy’s legacy will live on for generations to come.


  1. by Janice Cartwright

    On June 20, 2011

    I had to think a minute whether my father taught me can-do on purpose or not. The answer is he did teach patience and persistence but more by example than by words. He was a quiet man but one who never settled for almost perfect. My father at work on a home project fascinated me. Just when I thought that tile, or paving stone, or coat of paint couldn’t be improved upon, he would make an adjustment or add another stroke of the brush. Sometimes he would take the ‘pieces’ apart and start all over again, much to my inner, “Argghh!”

    One time I was preparing a package to mail. I would have done it any old way, but dad was watching. He kept me at it, trimming ends, when I was sure they were trimmed enough. When I tried to use what he knew was too much string, he made me pull it tighter and cut it shorter. Although he remained unruffled, I thought I’d never get that thing finished to suit him.

    Hey, maybe that’s why I tend to edit my writing to death as I go. It’s all my father’s fault.

  2. by Bumper

    On June 20, 2011

    Judy: Great story about your Dad. You are really a gifted writer and I enjoy reading your stories. It always leaves me wanting more.


  3. by Marc Sheer

    On June 21, 2011

    I remember like it was yesterday, my father and your father standing outside the farm while my father told your dad Joke after Joke. The way they laughed together as the tears rolled down both their faces was quite a scene. They truly loved each other. It’s a shame they found each other late in life but they made the best of it, and it showed. Memories are a wonderful thing, to keep the ones we loved alive for ever.

    Marc Sheer

  4. by Judy Watters

    On June 21, 2011

    You are so right, Marc. After each of Phil’s visits to the farm, Daddy would kiddingly complain that his sides hurt so bad from laughing. They did have a great time together.

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