By Michael Aun
The fathers in my life were influential people, starting with my own father, my uncles, my grandfather and even my father-in-law.
I was named after my dad, Michael A. Aun, Sr. My birth certificate says Michael A. Aun, Jr. but my dad hated the “Junior” moniker and decided that I would be Michael A. Aun, II. Whatever.
“Michael A,” as his friends called him, was a genuine war hero with a handful of Purple Hearts and a Silver Star to back it up. He was a father, not only to me and my ten brothers and sisters, but to scores of others who wandered into the Aun household from time to time.
Much like close-knit communities everywhere, parenting is a shared skill that begins early in life. Often Comanche children nursed from the breast of a community of mothers. When a Comanche father was lost in battle, another would be a surrogate father to the orphaned child.
Our community was not unlike that. My uncles, Arthur and Eli Mack, Jr. were surrogate fathers to me as was their father, Elias Mack, Sr., my grandfather. He died when I was only ten years old, but I learned many things at his knee.
Paul Thiel was my father-in-law for over a half century. He had a compelling influence on my life right up until his death last year because I knew him so long. Not only was he my father-in-law, but we were business partners for many years. I would trust any of these men with my life.
The late Coach Jim Valvano, with whom I often shared the platform before his death, once observed: “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. He believed in me.”
I can safely say that about the many “fathers” in my life. They were all remarkable men, all part of The Greatest Generation. Each influenced me in their own unique way.
To appreciate the responsibilities of a father, one must walk in a father’s shoes. I found this out the hard way with my twin sons, Cory and Jason, and my twin grandsons, Cameron and Keenan. Jerry Sienfeld described it nicely: “It’s like starting the blender but you can’t find the top.”
A father’s role is more important than anything else… it is to be a protector and provider. Dads are expected to prepare, preserve and provide children with precaution. While being proactive with kids, fathers are first obligated to be preventive of all harm.
I remember a friend’s wife yelling at him for playing football on their brand, new lawn. “We’re trying to raise some grass,” she cried. “No, we’re trying to raise some kids.”
These men were true mentors. Every extraordinary achiever is inspired by a great mentor, who loves you enough to tell you what you’re doing wrong as well as what you did right.
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society,” quipped Rev. Billy Graham. You can add unacknowledged, unrecognized, unappreciated, undervalued and unrewarded to that list Mr. Graham. My father and surrogate dads were all of these.
The adage says it best: “A dad is someone who holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed and has faith in you even when you fail.”
The best advice I ever gave my children was “Don’t tell mom.” All fathers should know that their children may not heed his advice, but they generally follow his example. Our kids learn the most when fathers teach us at those odd moments when dad isn’t trying to teach them anything.
I am inspired most by watching my three sons as each seek to raise my five beautiful grandchildren. They have their backs in victory or defeat.
I never had the unique privilege of raising a daughter, but I can vicariously identify my Jason and Cory’s challenges as they raise three granddaughters. I saw a unique bumper sticker that said: “Guns don’t kill people. Dads with daughters who are harmed do.”
The best gift for any father is for his children to do well. All your other problems pale in comparison.
Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® is the author of “Beating the Odds… How to Take the Gamble Out of Life”