I just figured out why I'm Type A - the sort of guy who's always on time, never loses his keys, has a checklist for everything.
I spent my company-ordered, unwanted and unpaid furlough with him in Florida and discovered a few things that had been hiding in plain sight. Maybe I noticed them on this visit because we weren't distracted by women - I flew down a week ahead of my wife, and Dad's girlfriend gave us lots of space.
I was in the Sunshine State to help Dad mark his 95th birthday, for which he was honored at a luncheon by the Alliance for Retired Americans.
For that event (and even nonevents), Dad laid out his clothes the night before.
So that's where I got that from. It makes sense to me, but it's something I've failed to pass on to several children and wives.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
In Delray Beach, Dad lives in a sprawling, palm-fringed retirement community that (heeding lawyers' warnings) I'll call Royal Finger. It's a colony of (mostly) ex-New Yorkers transplanted into one- and two-bedroom garden apartments grouped like Mah-jongg tiles in clusters called "walks."
Dad is a director of his "walk," which has 48 units, mostly in good shape, except for a few ruined by Hurricane Wilma.
Being a director brings with it a barrel of responsibility, a shipload of Excedrin headaches, but no pay.
A socialist with inbred suspicion of mercenary motives, Dad's compensation comes from knowing he is helping his fellow man. He's been paying it forward his entire life, and that's more gratifying to him than money in the bank.
On a recent Saturday morning, his "walk" is having a meeting at 10 a.m. As the Top Dog, he should be there early - but 9 a.m.?
"I have to put out the sign-in sheets," he tells me. He also takes chairs out of the supply closet and dusts them off for the other owners. Did I mention that he is a director? Did I mention that he is 95?
So - for readers, editors, offspring and wives - that's where I get it from.
And you do, too.
You get many "gifts" from your parents. The things they say are obvious. More important are the things they do.
Think about your personality, your style, the way you do things, the way you are.
Look in the mirror and you'll probably see your parents' fingerprints, but it's more than just your physical appearance that is passed along. Parents also shape your beliefs - your religion, your politics, your values. Are you a saver or a splurger, a joiner or a loner?
The centerpiece of this winter's Florida fest, which drew my family from around the country, was the 95th birthday/ARA luncheon.
Speakers included leaders of the ARA, the Royal Finger Community Association, the Workmen's Circle - all of which have enjoyed Dad's unstinting (and unpaid) efforts, but the headliner was U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. He took time away from his Sunday to praise "my friend Syd," who has "stood beside working people his entire life."
Deutch commented on Dad's "loud and commanding voice for workers' rights," adding that he takes "advantage of every opportunity to to be in the same room as Syd."
A lesser event was the arrival of the Lincoln, an MKZ, a smaller Lincoln, but plenty plush, with electronic gizmos up the wazoo (slight additional charge for the wazoo "package").
Since moving to God's Waiting Room 20 years ago, the only extravagance that Dad allows himself is a new leased car every three years. In the "what were you thinking?" category was the low-slung, white Trans Am that he got at age 85, complete with spoiler on the trunk. A muscle car that a 23-year-old might buy as a chick magnet, the Trans Am ran like a cheetah and cornered like a snake.
For the new Lincoln, the dealership drew up a 39-month lease - for a 95-year-old man. They showed more confidence than Joan of Arc.
In my youth, Dad and I had our differences. We still do, but fewer (if louder). Argument is how Bykofskys show affection.
Many children, naturally, rebel against their parents and choose a different path. We root for that to happen with children whose parents are haters or cheaters. We don't need any more of them.
Not everyone is blessed, as I am, with loving, decent, honest parents. I am thankful for what the parental Wheel of Fortune gave me.
If you are a winner - and I hope you are - remember to thank your parents now, because you will not have them forever.
Unlike the Lincoln, you don't know how long the lease is.
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