All parents, in some way or another, leave indelible marks on the world views that their children develop and bring into adulthood. In some cases, these marks are from strong, admirable qualities that we try to emulate ourselves because of the positive outcomes that resulted. In other cases, the marks come from behaviors that we observed causing damage to others or even themselves. In these situations, we make mental notes and likely try our best to do the opposite as we grow up. Most times, it was combination of both. Such was the case with my father.
Robert Paul Meshanko was born on February 20, 1937 in Pittsburgh, PA and passed away on December 28, 2015. As an adult, he was a by-product of the way he was raised. Having grown up in the shadow of an alcoholic father, he himself drank only moderately, and almost never to access. At the same time, his father helped run the family business of an auto repair shop and was quite handy with things mechanical. As a result, there wasn’t very much that my dad didn’t learn how to fix, automotive or otherwise. Similarly, the good and not-so-good qualities that his mother displayed also influenced him. Until the day he died, he could find a bargain better than anyone I’ve ever known. At the same time, her lack of emotion led him to be much more involved with his young children than either of his parents. In fact, the times he took my siblings and me camping, fishing and visiting our relatives are some of my fondest as a child.
My dad also had his challenges. His temper as a young parent often left emotional scars on my mom and us kids. His frequent yelling and swearing would oftentimes leave us cowering and feeling scared to death. He could also be extremely impatient, especially when driving, and was prone to road rage when someone cut him off. As a professional, he probably under-performed most of his peers even though he was the first in his family to have earned his MBA. His social skills were not good enough to master or even comprehend the company politics that eventually forced him into entrepreneurship in his early 50s.
What my dad eventually did was what each of us has a responsibility to do both personally and professionally. He took what his parents gave him, polished it up as best he could, and tried to make it a little bit better for his own family. By the time he was in his 60s and 70s, he actually got quite good at it. He relished and applauded his kids’ successes, helped us when we needed (if he could) and became a great husband to his second wife, my stepmother Barb. Most importantly, he softened his demeanor and apologized for many of the injuries his shortcomings had resulted in when he was younger.
As I endeavor to take the experiences and lessons that my father created for me and make them even better for my own kids, I find myself smiling as I recall one of his favorite quotes: “We’re not here for a long time. We’re here for a good time.” Thanks, dad. I miss you.