Nearly twelve years ago, I was sitting in a stark, white room in Columbus, Ohio. Sitting across from me was my Dad. When I saw him, my mind could only look back to moments of joy, laughter, and loving moments shared between Father and son; being thrown high into the air, only to land in a refreshing pool of water.
My Dad – Superman – teaching his little boy how to fly.
Those memories quickly clashed with the reality of the room I now sat; hospice, where the sick go to die in peace and relative comfort.
His eyes, hollow and sunken. Skin, yellow and stricken with life-eating cancer. In spite of the harrowing circumstances, his eyes were steady as he looked into mine.
We held back our tears and had a conversation as grown men. At the time, I didn’t feel like much of a man. I was figuring things out in life and wasn’t old enough to buy a beer. Whatever insecurities I had about feeling like a man were put to rest as my Father held open the door for me walk into manhood in my 20’s.
Walking through the perverbial door, I looked back to see if Dad would follow me through the doorway.
“This is where I stop – and you start, Aaron.”
“Dad, I’ll take care of the family.” I said, before watching the door close that would separate us; death.
Ten years ago, I left Ohio to begin a new project in New York City. Before leaving, I stopped at my Dad’s grave and placed a dollar coin on the stone. I vowed to not return until I had one million more. For years, I chased this dream with fervent passion.
As time went by, I found varying measures of success. It is a lifelong dream to buy my Mother a house. I often found this motivation as I worked late hours into the night.
It was during those moments (usually between 2-4am) that I also felt my Dad’s presence. He, too, worked late hours and it was likely one of the reasons his health failed as early as it did. I knew the midnight grind was murder on my health (as well as the stimulants to sustain it) yet, I persisted in these all-night work sessions that would sometimes last 60+ hours without sleep.
I remember working these late hours, because it was the one time where the outside would would shut up…and the only time I could feel my Dad’s presence with me.
Years went by and I eventually realized the success I was chasing (as well as the dollar figure) was completely secondary to the things that really mattered in life. Friendship is worth far more than a portfolio. Nothing is more productive than stopping to call your Oma, as well.
So, I returned to his grave after years of being to stubborn to return. My bank account was emptier than I had hoped. However, my heart was flush with love, gratitude, and joy.
I find myself, once again, sitting in New York City. Now, ten years later since I moved to Manhattan. Sitting here, I no longer feel like a little boy who only cares about wealth, success, and admiration from the soulless. Instead, I now stand a man, attentive to his purpose/mission.
After taking an extended trip (LA, Dallas, Ohio, NYC) I’m thrilled to return to home and continue to press towards the goals that have been planted in my heart. I’m rich with memories and surrounded by people who love me. It’s these things that matter most in life.
In a city like New York, I now see new meaning behind the phrase: ”Some people…all they have is money.”
I’m so thrilled to see what 2019 has ahead. Before he passed away, Dad gave me one important piece of advice:
”Aaron, always use the right tool for the job.”
I now understand what Dad meant when he gave me the advice. A full bank account isn’t as valuable as the knowledge of how to fill it in the first place. I’ve learned this lesson in the last ten years and am eager to put the lessons to practice as I use the tools available to me; iPhone, iPad, and a willingness to talk with strangers.