5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dad
by Linda Croyle March
My father would have been 90 years old today. Robert "Bob" Croyle passed away almost 6 years ago
after living with Alzheimer’s for a dozen years. A sweet sadness washes over me as I sit in remembrance
of him and the lessons he shared with me and countless others over his 84 years
of life as a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, teacher, coach, mentor and friend.
1) Be A Friend To All
Dad (far left) with 3 of his closest friends from
grade school at their annual
My father personified the
expression “he never met a stranger”. He stayed in the area he grew up in and became a teacher, coach, guidance counselor and vice principal at a local
high school for most of his working years, and as result, was fairly well known. And, if he
didn’t know you, he would walk right up to you with an outstretched hand, and
greet you with a friendly shake and a: “Hi. Bob Croyle!”
Whether my parents were in a
store or a restaurant, they invariably knew a quarter of the people present. As kids, we didn’t always appreciate the
interruptions, or the length of time it took us to come or go from these places,
but I see now how that shaped all six of us to be more outgoing and friendly, and to initiate and cultivate rich and diverse friend and work networks that we
might not otherwise have been blessed to have.
2) Be The Kind of Person the Yearbook Gets Dedicated To…Twice (or…Bring Out the Best in Others)
Indian River Central School Yearbook Dedication 1980
As friends and family
reflected on my father’s influence on them at his memorial service, they spoke
of his very quiet, yet powerful way of steering people toward the best of who
I vividly remember one hot
summer night in my teens, when I was pitching in a league championship softball game;
I was off my game from thinking too much, and my pitching was getting
progressively worse. My father, not one to interject in the moment (though not
at all shy about critiquing my performance after the game), walked over to me
between innings and calmly and pointedly told me: “This is not who you are. You
are so much more than what you are feeling and what you are showing right now. Go back
out there and give what you know you are capable of.”
It was a life changing
experience for me and not just in that moment, but also for the long term, as
it taught me the importance of being a mirror for others when I am in the
position to more clearly see their goodness, talent and brilliance than they can
see on their own.
3) Have a Place to Go Where You Feel at Peace
The family (minus Jeff) posing at the Cottage circa 1970
When I was two years old, my
parents bought a small cottage on a bay of Lake Ontario in Upstate NY about 20
minutes from our home. Summers were hot and muggy in our hometown of Watertown NY, and this
quieter, cooler, slower paced location, with its fixer-up cabin and weedy yard
was my father’s refuge.
We moved down there the day
school let out each summer and stayed there till the day before school started each
Fall. Along the way, it also became my favorite place in the world. No matter where I have
lived in this country, each summer I return to the cottage on Chaumont Bay to
feel that slower pace and sense of peace and home I loved so much as a kid who
was lucky enough to have grown up there.
4) There’s Nothing Like the Feeling of Having Done It
Dad helping my brother Marty install a flag pole in his yard.
My father was the original
DIYer. Borne out of necessity from growing up in a family with little money, Dad
became a jack-of-all-trades. And while not exactly a master at any, he got points
for creativity – give him some duct tape and plastic tubing from an old hair
dryer and voila, you have a sink drain pipe!
I was lucky enough to be
around for many of the on-going maintenance and home improvement projects – laying
carpet, painting baseboards, paneling every room in the house (and I mean every
room), taking apart broken radios, you name it. As a result, I am not afraid to
fix or build anything.
And while this can sometimes
backfire – like when you have to call the plumber to undo the fix you have attempted and this extra step costs $75/hour – the rewards have been invaluable. The
pride and sense of accomplishment I feel each time I view something I have created
myself is beyond measure. I have my father to thank for that.
5) Exhibit Patience, Love, and Joy at Every
Mom and Dad not taking themselves too seriously
When you have six kids and your
sole income is a teacher’s salary (in the 60s, 70s and early 80s), you have a
choice to make – you can either complain and focus on how hard life can be, or
you can choose to see the good, have as much fun as possible, and make the most
of your time here on this planet. My parents chose the latter and for that I am
My father sang and cracked
jokes my entire life, even in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. He had his
favorite sayings: “I’m ready’s brother” and “vah socks du” and favorite songs: “Did
Your Mother Come From Ireland“ and "They Didn't Believe Me" that he would repeat over and over again; I
think it brought him peace and a sense of something more stable to hold on to as
his world seemed to grow smaller and smaller.
And patience is probably the
final and most lasting quality I learned from my Dad. As the father I knew
slipped further and further away as his condition progressed, I needed to call upon every ounce of patience and compassion I
could, to be as present, joyful and loving with him in those final years as he
had been to me and all the people he touched in his life along his journey.
was this last lesson that I treasure the most.
Happy Birthday Dad!