I am a ‘Junior’ and so I carry my dad’s name with great honor and often use my full name as an homage to Robert Sr. I try and live my life knowing that this is the one thing that I have that can’t be taken away from me.
“Dad, I know I have our name on the back of my jersey, so when I get out there, I am going to make us proud.” It wasn’t me who said this so eloquently. It was my son, Jordan. Talk about understanding the importance of respect and pride in who you are and what you do, I’ll never forget Jordan stating this proudly as he began his career in the NFL and I almost broke down in tears as it left his mouth.
I know there are some of you out there who don’t have your fathers by your side and I feel for you with my entire heart and soul. My wife, Lisa, lost her dad two years ago and the impact of that loss is as real today as it was the day we said goodbye to Jim Brown, Sr. Today I decided to sit and write a passage on my dad, the life lessons that he taught me and to celebrate his 76 years on this planet as well as the greatest holiday of all holidays: Father’s Day! I hope that those who have their dads with them will make a call or (if you are lucky) turn and hug your father why you still can and tell him how much you love him. Others can simply reflect on the times that meant the most to them and take a trip down memory lane in their own thoughtful way. For those who are new dads or about to be a dad, well, your story can begin today so pay close attention.
That was just what occurred. As we logged mile after mile and shared story after story I became increasingly thankful that I continue to have him in my life. I was one of the lucky ones and even after repairing a fracture that kept he and I apart for a handful of years, he has been my confidant, partner and closest friend.
My father is an exceptional man.
Born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, he embodies everything a stereotypical Italian-American does but he is also educated, insightful and overly excited to enjoy the golden years of his life. He is a history buff, film aficionado and a world class chef as well as a fisherman and boat captain. In his former life he was a stockbroker, restaurant owner (Italian, of course!) and manager at Yale University’s dining halls where he created incredible teams and a culture that valued people over all. That was the most valuable lesson he taught me. The many diverse men and women who worked alongside of him admire him to this day and he can’t go anywhere without getting stopped and sharing an inevitable hug.
The lessons continued on as did the years. My dad is a man who improves with age and even in random conversations or daily calls with me he drops wisdom or galvanizes a philosophy that he has championed. I carry his lessons with me everywhere I travel and have passed them all down, with pride, to my family and coworkers as they truly are as relevant today as the first day that they passed from his lips to my ears.
Growing up on the East Coast meant that noise, chaos and confrontation can be a daily event. Battling isn’t always the right way, but growing up where I did, it was often the most common way. Combative personalities were a staple of my younger years. I often walked into a room to debate, immediately poised to defend myself and potentially offend the person I had a disagreement with. My father used to say “put the pistols on the table and disarm those who are ready to fight back.”
Translation: listen first and talk later.
Let people connect with you and actively understand what they are trying to communicate. After doing so, be ready to see it from their standpoint, continue with an empathetic mind and look for resolution instead of further conflict. That’s rock-solid advice when applied properly.
Speaking of advice, my dad never gave me the answer to a challenge I was facing, he simply advised. A great way to live life while also doing your best to be a dad.
He would frequently give me great nuggets of wisdom and I was smart enough to digest them properly. Sometimes I would feel as if I were wiser than my parents and like most young adults I would want to go about solving these snags in my own way. “I have a map here,” my dad said regularly with confidence. “It outlines where some of life’s mines are hidden. I don’t know where all of them are but I have stepped on about 70% of these throughout my time. Take the map and use it if you want … or go it alone and take your chances.” This was prudent guidance and something I use each and every chance I get. Knowing where the pain points are, having true experience across many fronts and learning from those is irreplaceable. My dad’s voice was always a guiding one, but never with judgement or expectations that it would be listened to. “Dads are like conductors on a train.” He once said when we were chatting about how I raise my kids. “They get you on board safely, punch your ticket and carefully get you to your destination. Not many people turn to the conductor after the train arrives and give them a handshake or hug. It’s simply expected.”
Through all of the ups and downs, different career moves and family matters, my dad does one thing that everyone comments on and openly admires. He stops and smells the roses. As he has gotten older my dad has gotten wiser and most certainly more introspective and it’s the small things he appreciates. I knew if I took my dad to Hawaii the trip would be bursting with small wonders for him. A whale breaching in the Pacific, having a drink while watching the sunset, putting his feet in black sand… all of these things were wonders to him and that was wonderful for me.
This is what I see now, because of Robert Alberino, Sr. The journey is more important than the destination and once we get to where we are going it’s the stories along the road that we remember. It’s the pit stops and pitfalls that we learn the most from.
So, as we continue to roll on, mile after mile, I savor the little things and urge you to do the same. If you are one of the lucky ones, do the same on this Father’s Day and every day after. If you aren’t, then close your eyes and revisit that one moment in time that puts you right near your father and simply enjoy the ride for as long as you can.