Lessons I learned from my father

NB: I started this post on the 8th of February 2010 and had little intention of finishing it until the anniversary of my father’s death snuck up on me and I decided I needed to dust it off.

So this weekend past I spent a lot of time thing about my late father. See the apple does land rather far from the tree, well at least where I’m concerned. My dad was one of the most awe inspiring men I’ve met. I suppose everyone says that though. This last weekend my dad and mom would’ve been married for 42 years, even after he’s been gone for 2 years these big days are when i’m reminded most of the shadow in which I’m walking.

Looking at my blog I can’t help but think my dad, Colin, would approve. He spent his life helping others. As a boy, his father died while he was still young. His mother would have put him and his sister up for adoption when she emigrated to Canada but his “aunts” took him in. He grew up in a South Africa that was divided by race. He only finished grade 12, through night school, after his 30th birthday had come and gone. Not uncommon at all in a society designed to limit the choices of people of colour to menial jobs.

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.


For those who don’t know me I’m South African. At the same time as Nelson Mandela sat defiant in his cell on Robben Island, many miles away in his long walk to freedom and thousands rose up in armed struggle against our white oppressors, there was also the real majority in South Africa trying to make a living. A silent South Africa filled with my countryman who now walk past me in the streets grey. These were the heads of households. These were the majority of South Africans who suffered in silence and tried to make a home for their families. Not everyone is meant to lead a revolution, but in our South African revolution we had more heroes than our once plentiful gold mines could ever gift medals too.

My father was one of those heroes of the struggle. A hero who shielded his family from the harsh realities of a divided country. Thanks to him I feel inferior to no man or woman. Despite his limited education he had the quickest wit of any man I’ve come across and a thirst for knowledge that gave him a very impressive vocabulary and enough sense to use it wisely. My father was a storyteller. I recall waking up a few Saturday’s ago and singing a children’s song I’d long forgotten. My dad was a storyteller and saturday morning was a time for puppies in windows, ants and rubber tree plants and white kittens and little brown rabbits (many years later my dad was reprimanded for telling the story of the white kitten and little brown rabbit due to it’s racist nature, we had a good laugh about that when we were all grown up, and thankfully there’s not a racist among us Fletcher boys *close call*:))

One of the stories he told often for the benefit of those of us who missed out on the worst of apartheid was how he stood up to policeman on a “whites only” beach while he and my mom and us kids were with him. I remembered him this weekend and wish I had that kind of courage. That kind of conviction. Back in South Africa pre 1990 it was very risky to assert yourself. All these years on I can’t help but try and imagine the frustration he must have felt at being told that him and his family were not good enough to tread the same sand as white families, I can’t begin to understand. Just thinking about it now makes my blood boil.

Still these are not the memories he would have chosen to leave us.

My dad truly was the kinda man that just wanted us all to get along, colour be damned.


* Laugh – Laugh often, laugh loud make others laugh too
* Care more – Care more, always strive to Care more than you do now, whether its for others or about what you’re doing for a living keeping striving to care more
* Tell stories – Our imaginations are muscles leave them idle for too long and they’ll atrophy. The world can’t hurt you when you have the imagination to travel anywhere anytime.
* Be Selfless – I often come home after a long day at work and marvel at how my dad after doing the same would jump in the car and pick up school supplies I needed or some dinner ingredient that slipped through the grocery shopping cracks or give someone a lift home who lived so far out of the way they wouldn’t think to ask for a lift
* Make others feel special – My father had a gift, when you spoke to him you could tell that he was completely “there” or present our zen brethren might say, and oh how he liked to talk.
* Don’t Panic – Learn some grace when the going gets tough the flustered start running. I’ve never seen my dad panic it’s one of the things I think has rubbed off, keeping your head when all around are losing their’s, well that’s priceless these days.

That’s the best I can do just at the moment, with the second year after his passing drawing to a close practicing what I preach is still hard every now and then.

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