By Steve Smith
This is the time of year when most people make New Year’s resolutions. God knows why, but they resolve to give up bad habits, lose weight, get in shape, be more successful or less of an asshole, and stop doing things that make them feel terrible about themselves.
Reflecting on 2019, an interesting year to say the least, gets very personal for me. My father passed away in late October. It was sudden. It was certainly unexpected. And it has given me opportunity to reflect. At the risk of this becoming an overly self-indulgent post, I thought it would be helpful to convey a few thoughts about Dad here.
First and foremost, Raymond V. Smith was the best role model a young man could have, always doing the right thing and always considerate of others’ time, effort and wellbeing.
One of his neighbors described him as “the best backyard neighbor you could have,” which might just be the best compliment someone could give. Hearing that brought me back to the New Jersey days, where we had some neighbors who were, shall we say, “colorful” and where Dad always tried to be that good neighbor.
In 2004, Mom and Dad relocated to Florida, a well-known refuge for the unsavory and unhinged (Need a reminder? Just think O.J. Simpson and Roger Stone. The full list is too long to explore here) making the New Jersey oddballs seem kind of normal.
When asked to serve on the Homeowners Association board, he couldn’t say “no.” His patience and good nature served him well in many challenges brought about by the board’s management of the swimming pool, irrigation system, and way too many oak trees. It wasn’t Del Boca Vista, Phase II of Seinfeld fame, but you get the picture.
We had many discussions about politics, and shared a general bewilderment about how incredibly out of whack our national political discourse has become. We speculated about how it got that way, and what it would take to get things back on course. Dad was not highly educated, even though he never stopped learning. And he was never politically active, but he could see through the smoke and mirrors. His opinions were based on actual facts, not the rants of TV opinion hosts and conspiracy theorists.
A positive trait of any human being is a healthy sense of humor. His was inspired by W.C. Fields, Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason and, most recently, Jimmy Kimmel. Without exaggeration, he kept his sense of humor right up until his final hours. In great pain, from a hospital bed, he was doing the Raphael sequence from the 1979 Peter Sellers film Being There. It didn’t take much to get him going.
In a world of uncertainty, one thing I know is certain. With Dad’s passing, there is just a little bit less kindness, less integrity, less compassion and less plain old-fashioned common sense in this world.
Going forward, I’m also sure there will be many times when we’ll ask ourselves, “What would Dad have done?” So that’s my New Year’s resolution – to be more like him.