Father’s Day is a wonderful time filled with a mix of emotions. It’s a day to be thankful and fondly recall my two dads. My biological father, John, passed away when I was four years old. I don’t have a ton of memories of him, but my extended family has told me we have the same walk, same loud laugh, and the same dose of extroversion. My dad never met a stranger. He would make quick friendships at every turn. It served him well as a Seargent who served in Vietnam because he was always focused on his men instead of himself.
My mom remarried when I was 13 years old to my second dad, Don. It wasn’t easy for him to jump into a family with two teenage boys. However, he made it work. He was a glorious example of work ethic, serving others and the community you lived in. He was always the wittiest person in the room, and he taught me countless lessons on how to be a consistent husband and father. He passed away at the end of 2020 and I miss him daily.
My “kids” are now adults. They are out on their own and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They are finding their way in life, their careers, and their relationships. We are having real conversations about every topic possible and I love seeing them continue to grow and develop. There have even been a few times where they’ve asked my advice !! I nearly fainted the first time it happened and cherished it at the same time. Making the transition where we are now has been the best stage of fatherhood yet.
I know I have been fortunate with my two dads. Trust me. We have had our ups and downs and disagreements. I’ve had the same with my kids. But that’s honestly just life. Life happens and I wouldn’t change a moment. My two dads were with me through all the facets of my life and I plan to be there for my kids for as long as I’m on this planet.
I’m not sure what the future will hold for me, my wife, or my kids. I hope that one day they have fond memories of their dad and share the experiences they had with me over the years.
For everyone who is a fellow dad – Happy Father’s Day !!
It’s quite an adventure. An adventure worth taking.
It’s Father’s Day once again. This can bring up a variety of memories for people. I know that not everyone has had a great relationship with their father. I’m fortunate because the experience with my fathers has been great for different reasons and for different periods of time. In the past, I’ve written about my biological dad who passed away when I was only four years old. I’ve also been able to capture the amazing time I had with my “stepdad” who was around for the majority of my life who passed away at the end of 2020. This year I wanted to share my reflections about being a dad.
I’ve been a dad for over 27 years now. My wife and I have two wonderful kids who are now adults – Melanie and Josh. I don’t take it for granted that we fit into the stereotypical nuclear family model. We have had far more ups than downs. Please understand that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our struggles, arguments, and disagreements over the years. It’s intriguing to me that when people share experiences that are positive, it’s met with skepticism and critique. There’s this insinuation that there must be something else that just isn’t being shared. Sorry to disappoint.
I love being a dad. It is probably the “work” that I value more than any other personal accomplishment I’ve been able to have. You see, I want my kids to know that they are loved just as they are and through whatever they face. I want to be the dad who laughs with them and holds them when things get emotional. I want to listen so that they are heard, and offer solutions only if they ask for options. It gives me great joy to celebrate with them when they have new life experiences. And, it touches me deeply when they contact me for advice.
You see, the most important thing I get to do is to be a model for them. They’ve seen when I’ve been loving and affectionate with my wife and with them. They’ve also witnessed when I’ve failed them and others. At times they’ve heard me yell at something I thought mattered SOOOOOO much when it usually didn’t. I’ve always strived to be genuine, vulnerable, and transparent with them. I cherish when they make fun of me when I tear up at a TV commercial. They eagerly wait to pounce on the first senseless tear and howl with glee when it happens (which is often.)
I love seeing them grow up to learn about life. I want to jump in and take care of everything, but know that I need to step back so they learn from life just like my dad did for me. I make sure to check in on them often to hear what’s happening in their corner of the world while also sharing what’s happening in mine. I share my faith, my successes, and my frustrations. We jostle over politics, social issues, and musical tastes.
They have always known that I’m the dad who was willing to jump in, be goofy, and make sure their friends always felt our house was a second home for them. I continue to strive to be the dad who encourages and takes interest in the people in their lives. I want to be the dad who can’t wait to see the next Marvel movie or ride the scary amusement park ride with them.
I know that this may sound sappy and sentimental (and I’m cool with that in so many ways.) I wouldn’t trade a second of the time I’ve been a dad. Not one. I look forward to growing old and staying an intricate part of their lives whatever comes. I don’t have a set of goals for them to meet or unreal expectations to measure whether they’ve “made it” or not.
This past weekend a significant life event occurred for me and my family. My dad passed away. I’ve written about him often here on this blog and in my books. I have incredible peace about this and let me tell you why.
Technically, Don Fleming is my stepfather. My biological father, John Browne was a Vietnam veteran who passed away from cancer in 1968 and I was four years old. My mother had been a widow for about eight years when Don came into our life. He and my mom connected right away, dated for a while, and then got married in 1976. It was a full-blown 1970’s gala where my dad, my brother and I all wore the obligatory polyester suits. (They were powder blue by the way. Rockin’ the fashion even then !!)
As soon as Don married my mom, we never called him “Dad” because we were pre-teen knuckleheads. However, he didn’t push back and handled it with grace as he did everything in life. As my brother and I got older, we realized how amazing he was and “Dad” replaced “Don” naturally. My father was an incredible role model of so many attributes that define my life now. I mentioned how he showed grace because he was a man of faith. He would never press this upon others, but he also was very self-assured of who he was. He also was the model husband. He was openly affectionate with my mom and would make sure to give her a kiss when he left for work and when he returned. He never missed a day – ever.
He always emphasized that my brother and I should be “couth” (a word that isn’t used anymore) when it came to respecting our mother and other adults. He expected us to do our share around the house, and he is responsible for our work ethic because of how he modeled it professionally and personally. My dad was never strict, but he was direct and intentional. He expected accountability from us which he always defined as following through on what we had committed to. He came to every. single. event my brother and I were involved in at school. He was supportive, proud, and kept us grounded to be thankful for any honor we received.
As we all grew older together and my brother and I went off to college, we saw my dad less and less because his goal was for us to get on our feet and provide for ourselves. In fact, the day I graduated from high school, Dad hugged me outside the school, told me he loved me and asked when I was leaving. True story. This transition happens to most families, so as life continued, we’d see each other less and less. As my brother and I started families of our own, those gaps naturally grew longer and longer.
Every time I’d visit Dad in Ada, at my house in Cincinnati or at family events all over the Midwest, he’d make sure to share his thoughts and opinions on life. He would grab your attention by saying, “Write this down . . .” Then he’d share a quote he had memorized, a quip or quick story and most assuredly a joke or two. He wanted me to remember these points because he knew they had an impact, reach and meaning. It became so common that I’d hear him pause, raise his hand and I’d jump in and say, “I know. ‘Write this down . . .”
I didn’t realize how ingrained this short phrase had become in my life, but even now, when I give a presentation at a conference I will find myself pausing, looking out to the audience, and say “Write this down . . .”
I am grateful for this man who came into my life 44 years ago. The man who married and loved my mother so incredibly deep and made me who I am today as a husband, father, friend, man of faith, and a professional. Without my Dad, I wouldn’t have had the model of grace, respect and humor that also make me who I am.
I know that as I write this, that not everyone has a great relationship with their parents and/or family. I do not take this for granted or feel that my example is greater than anyone else’s experience. I have learned from both my mother and father to be others-focused and value every person for who they are and where they come from. If I can ever be someone to confide in, converse with, weep with or laugh with, I am here for you. That is a fact and not an idle aspiration.
So, as I close I want to share something that Dad told me to write down. It’s from the poem Desiderata which was one of his absolute go to quotes.
I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’m a fiercely proud alumni of Ohio University !! It’s a phenomenal university that is tucked in the hills of southeast Ohio along the banks of the Hocking River. It has the distinction of being the first university in the State. Those that have attended OU will make sure to let you know that they are NOT from that school in Columbus, Ohio which shall not be named.
I cherish every time I get the chance to visit the campus. It still has the vibe of being a welcoming home for all that pass through. The students oddly look much younger than I remember looking when I attended, but that’s to be expected. After graduating and starting my own career and family, I never thought that either of my kids would attend my alma mater. When it came time to make college visits, I told them both that they would visit OU even if they didn’t attend. My daughter visited first and liked the campus, but didn’t feel the same pull I did when I attended. She attended the University of Indianapolis and earned her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. She did fine !!
When my son was about to graduate high school, we took the trek across the State to visit OU one more time. I made sure to visit the Bagel Street Deli to make sure he had the experience just in case I never would get to again. Josh surprised me by deciding he would attend Ohio University !! To say I was geeked would not cover how I felt.
That was four quick years ago. This weekend I had the distinct pleasure to see my son graduate as an OU Bobcat. I sat in the same gymnasium 33 years earlier wondering what would happen next. As soon as I walked into the Convocation Center, tears streamed down my face. The reason for that had little to do with my alma mater and everything to do with my amazing son.
You see, I hoped that he would have an incredible time like I did when I went to OU. His experience was his own and had its various ups and downs as it should. I didn’t want him to mimic what I did. I just wanted his college experience to be memorable. It was. Josh was not a big fan of high school. He did well but he couldn’t wait to get out. He didn’t enjoy many classes and I was wondering how his next academic adventure would go. I had nothing to be concerned about. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and embraced all facets of learning.
After the graduation ceremony, my wife and I spent the entire day with Josh enjoying every moment. We made one last stroll up and down Court Street and made sure to buy one more batch of OU apparel. As the rain started to come, we stopped off at Donkey Coffee and Espresso (the coolest coffee house I’ve ever been to !!) It was so cool to sit and talk with the young man who started as an unsure teenager four years earlier. We talked about life, politics, his college memories, and it was obvious that he was ready to step out into the next phase of his life.
The fight song for Ohio University starts out with the lyrics “Stand up and cheer, Cheer loud and long for old Ohio . . .” Today I stand up and cheer for my fellow alum, my fellow Bobcat, my son.
It wouldn’t be an OU post without the Marching 110 – the most exciting band in the land !! Bobcat proud. Bobcat for life !!
This past weekend my amazing daughter accomplished something 21 years in the making !! (if you start from Kindergarten) She earned her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from the University of Indianapolis. To say that my wife and I are proud would be a gross understatement.
I know there are many families who are celebrating the graduations of their children from high schools and colleges all over the world. It’s a milestone that still gives me chills to see people reach any level of education. There are countless hours of studying, research papers, projects and presentations. Each one seems daunting at the time they’re due for both the student and their parents. So, I want to wish a hearty congratulations for everyone celebrating graduations this Spring and Summer. Make sure to enjoy them.
Now, back to my daughter Melanie . . .
There were 52 people in her class who earned their Doctorate this weekend, and they are all part of the inaugural doctoral class at UIndy. There were many proud parents, spouses, partners, children and extended family. It was wonderful because we don’t have enough times in our days where there is only positive energy. You didn’t hear one complaint. Instead, you could hear an audible sigh of relief from everyone involved.
We have been so fortunate over the academic portion of Melanie’s life. She has been at the top of her class ever since she began school. She never faltered and pressed herself to succeed. My wife and I expected both of our kids to perform, but left it to them to do the work and get the results they’ve earned. She continued excelling throughout high school, undergraduate and throughout her graduate studies. She ended up with a 3.93 GPA out of 4.00 in her doctoral program. (I know, slacker. She left .07 on the table !!)
More than any academic achievement, we’re proud of who our daughter is as a young woman. She is someone who has a strong faith and a heart for others. She has served people in many different arenas around the world including Ghana and many inner cities throughout the U.S. She attracts others like a magnet and is a close friend to many. You’ll find her to be selfless and yet self-aware and confident. She’s also fiercely funny and a joy to be around. My wife and I often heard from teachers, friends and their families how much they enjoy having Melanie around.
Remember how I said I was proud ??
We’re most impressed by what a great human Melanie has become. She is positive and does her best to bring life and light to all she encounters. You can’t ask much more than that from your children.
Now, like all of those other graduates, she steps out to take her next step. The difference this time is that she won’t be going to another school. She’ll soon be sitting for her boards and then will enter the workforce somewhere. I’m geeked that she’ll be in a field where she’s taking care of humans because that is what she was made to do.
There were many tears shed and they glistened on my face at every event I attended. It’s hard to believe that 24 plus years ago I held this beautiful little girl born on Christmas Day. And, from now on, I get to call her Dr.
There’s a very cool place that is a five minute drive from my house called Station Road Farm. Many towns have a place like this where you can buy flowers, produce, mulch, pumpkins, etc. It is a popular location because it’s a farm that seems to have been dropped in the middle of a suburb. This has been a favorite shopping option for my family for years. It gave me a chance to keep close to my roots because I grew up on or near a farm for most of my youth, and my kids got to have a quasi-farm experience.
I remember on my relative’s farms that there were always animals. There would be multiple dogs and cats that just seemed to come with the whole environment. So, when we visited Station Road Farm, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the same thing. When my kids were very young, we were making a visit to pick up tomatoes and corn when they were distracted by new kittens roaming around the property. The cashier was very observant and she looked down to my daughter and said, “The kittens are free to a good home. Would you like to take one?” My daughter got those big eyes that kids get when they want something, and she cooed, “Can we Dad?” We didn’t have any pets at home, and I couldn’t say no to those eyes. I said, “If you see one that comes up to you, I’ll think about it.”
As if divine providence was upon her, a small yellow kitten started wrapping itself around and around my daughter’s legs. She squealed and said, “Dad, look !!” We drove back home and picked up my wife and son and brought them back to see the kitten. They loved him too. That was the day Bailey came home with us. We weren’t prepared and had nothing needed to take care of a new pet. So, we made a trip to the store and bought everything we needed – and then some.
That was 14 years ago. He has been a wonderful part of our family who had some very unique qualities. Every night when the kids came home from school, or Debbie and I came home from work, he was at the door to greet us. Every. Night. He also loved playing fetch by chasing a small rainbow striped ball up and down our basement steps forever. Bailey was never a lap cat, but he was ever present. If we were in a room, he was there with us. He always knew where we were and he did his rounds to check on everyone to make sure things were good.
This weekend Bailey passed. We fondly shared stories of his life. There were visits to elementary school for Show & Tell with both kids. Then there was the time of how he survived a thunderstorm when he fell out through a screen on our second floor and stayed on a small strip of the roof soaked and mewing until we pulled him in. He begged at the table and was a fan of lunch meat and licking tuna cans clean. Everyone is biased about having the “best” pet ever, but I would say that Bailey was the best fit for our family. I don’t think there’s any better description that fits him. I’m so thankful he chose to wrap around my daughter’s legs.
I know that I normally write about how to make HR better, but we need to remember that our lives are so much more than our chosen occupation. We have so little actual time truly interacting with people even though we feel it consumes every waking moment of our time at work.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the encounters and interactions you have with people, I challenge you to cherish them instead. People pass in and out of our lives daily. Instead of letting them pass you by, be intentional and connect with them. Who knows, you may be the exact connection they needed at the exact time they needed it.
Value others. Celebrate their lives and the time you have with them. Never take it for granted and be thankful for the time you have.
Thanks Bailey for being a vital member of the Browne family !!
I am very fortunate to be a father. I mean that. This is something that I wanted to become at some point in my life. I am also very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by an extended family where I saw strong fatherhood models both from their personal example and how they loved their spouse and their children.
In today’s society, fatherhood has a tarnished image. Most of this is honestly earned because of those who haven’t been able to be a model father. Please note that this post isn’t in any way meant to exemplify one father versus another. Parenting is not easy. It never has been. No one gives you an “owners manual” once you are blessed to be able to have children in your family.
Most dads I know have followed the example of being men who work hard and often too long. They are trying to provide for their families, but their extended hours often eat into time that could have been spent with their kids. Kids may not understand the sacrifice that is being made while it is happening, but I hope they do see it as they grow older.
My wife and I have two kids who are now adults. As I type this, I’m being a “dad” who is off at a conference for HR which is my chosen profession. I will be out of town and away from them on Father’s Day. My entire family is incredibly supportive of me professionally, and they always have been. Now, get ready for an amazing story . . .
Outside of our house we had a dwarf evergreen in our front flowerbed. It was there when we moved in back in 1991. We enjoyed it as part of our landscaping and gave us some “curb appeal.” I was told by a friend who is a landscaper that it would never grow much because of the type of evergreen it was. He was wrong.
This small tree grew more and more every year. The tree became a prime background for family pictures. My wife and I stood in front of it as did my parents and friends who visited. It also was a great tree to decorate with lights every Christmas season and when the snow fell on it with the lights twinkling through, it was beautiful.
When our daughter Melanie was born, we took pictures of the three of us in front of the tree. As our son Josh came along we now had a family of four and the tree had grown along with our family. The biggest tradition we had was taking the kids picture in front of the pine on the first day of school each year. We did this from Kindergarten through their Senior year in High School. As the kids grew, so did the tree. They were never taller than the pine that wouldn’t grow, and we had to use a step ladder to get lights all the way to the top each year after awhile.
Recently, the tree began to die and become browned and brittle. We decided just this Spring to take it down. It was an emotional day because of so many memories.
Now to today . . .
As I settled in my room and began to unpack my clothes and get ready for the conference, I saw three envelopes with cards and a small white bag with green tissue paper covering some odd shapes. The cards were for Father’s Day. As I opened them, tears streamed down my face. The cards were hilarious and filled with handwritten notes that made me laugh through my tears. I then pulled out the tissue paper and unwrapped it to find this . . .
My “adults” had taken the trunk of the pine and cut two sections off to make this as my Father’s Day present. The ornament is our family initial for “Browne” and the other is a picture of them in front of the tree at Easter. Speechless.
This Father’s Day hug a Dad. The majority of them are doing the best they can. Yes, they work hard and put in long hours. They all hope that over the years they have planted seeds in their kids to leave a legacy and some deep roots of faith and family. They’re the tree that is the background of their family’s pictures.
This post isn’t a tribute to the incredible Steve Miller Band, but I may have to do that at a later time !! No, this week I’m straying from the world of HR to pay tribute to my son, Josh.
My son became an Eagle Scout on Tuesday !! There really aren’t words that capture how proud I am of him. He has been in Scouts for almost 12 years and I was fortunate enough to travel along with him. It’s hard to picture that the little first grader who started as a Tiger Cub Scout is now a young man who will surely change the world !!
There are so many things that I love about Josh which made his Scouting experience unique and singular. My son is a free thinker who looks at the world as if it were an endless landscape. He took merit badges that others didn’t because he wanted to track things that interested him. He was disappointed that he wasn’t able to get the Truck Transportation badge before reaching Eagle. He really wanted to do this !!
Josh is smart, creative and has a sharp sense of humor. He often encouraged the other scouts in the Troop to look at things differently and try different experiences. He’s becoming a confident speaker in front of his peers and in front of crowds. It’s great to see him continue to develop and grow.
He didn’t settle on his project either. He wanted to do something that made an impact and would help many, so he decided to build a 12′ x 12′ shed for a local Animal Shelter. It was the largest project anyone in the Troop has ever attempted. He not only was successful, with the help of many of our scouts and adults from the Troop, but he also raised the most money ever for an Eagle Scout project. I’m not surprised that Josh wanted to “go big” because that’s how he sees life.
He faced a challenge that most Scouts don’t face while they work their way through ranks. His Dad was the Scoutmaster of the Troop at the same time he was moving up. Josh and I are very close. He would deny that if you asked him because our personalities are so similar. At times we are oil and water, but that never stood in his way. I can proudly say that Josh was able to develop relationships and become a strong individual even with me in the Scoutmaster role.
The other thing that I just have to say for him and about him (because we’ve talked about this) is that my son is a great example of why we shouldn’t stereotype and generalize his generation !! He is a fierce millennial and hates it when my generation (and others) say things about how his generation won’t be successful.
Did you know that only 4% of boys who start scouting become an Eagle Scout? His accomplishment has absolutely nothing to do with his age, and everything to do with his character and work ethic !!
He’s about to literally “fly” from our house as he heads to college in the Fall. It won’t be the same to not have him here to go to weekly Troop meetings on Monday night or go on another camping adventure or a national event like going with him to Sea Base. He’s not set on a firm major yet in college, but I have no doubt that he will be successful in all he does just like he was in earning this honor.
I can’t wait to see what he will do and who he will become. It will be an adventure I’m sure !!
Today is Memorial Day and I was fortunate enough to spend it with my parents and my brother’s family. As we all get older, it’s harder and harder to get all of the kids (now young adults) together with everyone. We were able to grill out, share stories, see how fortunate we are to have such great kids. I cherish my family and this day, more than most, makes this even more true.
You see, one person wasn’t able to be at our gathering, my biological father. My dad, John Browne, was a veteran of the US Army. He served during the Vietnam War and went on four tours during his service. The Army was really the only choice at the time for my dad. He was an average high school student and the Army was a way to have a career and develop skills to use later in life. He entered as a private and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He ended up being a highly decorated person for his bravery, valor and leadership of his troops during the war.
If you notice, I keep noting these things in the past tense. My dad passed away in 1968 after losing a battle to Hodgkin’s Disease cancer at the age of 26. It’s amazing to me that he survived the difficulty of battle only to lose to a disease.
I’ve heard that my dad was caring, gregarious and had a deep laugh that came out easily and often. He was a dedicated friend and loving husband and father. I was only four years old when dad died. I have a handful of memories of him, but wish I had more time to have been with him. From what I’ve been told, he and I are very similar !! We look the same, have the same voice and I guess I even walk like him. When I laugh (which is often), my family has said, “That’s just like John.” I’m sure he loved life and lived it to the fullest !!
One other thing that gives me pride . . .
My dad volunteered to be in the Army. Just when the draft was going to come into full force and be a dividing factor in our country’s history, my dad chose to serve. He knew that he could be called to be in harm’s way, and he signed up anyway.
Today, there are thousands of men and women who are just like my dad. They weren’t drafted into service. They chose to serve, and they continue to do so in both times and circumstances of war as well as humanitarian efforts around the world. We are so comfortable in our day-to-day lives that we take for granted these folks who protect our freedom. That’s a shame and something none of us should take for granted.
Without these thousands of people willing to step in and serve, I wouldn’t be having a picnic with my family this Memorial Day. So, I wanted to say “Thank You” to all the people of the Armed Services – not just on this day, but every day. When you see someone in uniform, thank them in person. They deserve this and so much more !!
I hope you join me in being thankful for those who serve !!
Yesterday we had the chance to thank all of those fortunate to be mothers. It is incredible to see the outpouring for moms, and every bit of it is perfect !! I hope you took time to thank the moms in your life yesterday because they deserve your thanks EVERY day !!
Honestly, this is a huge work issue as well. Please note one thing here . . . I think ALL moms work !! The mothers who are able to be at-home-moms work hard every day with their families, communities and kids. Don’t ever think that this isn’t valuable. It’s an incredible gift that they give with immeasurable value.
For those great moms who also have a job outside of the home, I think we need to give you more validity and attention. It’s an amazing testament to you as a professional to be able to do all that you do in the workplace !! You see, I have a marvelous example to draw from – my mom.
My father passed away when I was 4 and my brother was 2 back in 1968. So, my mom became a “single” mom as a widow during a time when that was much more of an exception than today. We have an amazing extended family who pitched in to watch my brother and I during the day so she could work an entry level administrative position as well as take college courses to become a teacher. She earned her degree from Bowling Green State University and began teaching in the vocational school system. She taught future administrative assistants who were predominantly women. So, she modeled her success to those who would go on to have careers of their own.
Now, I know everyone says their mom is the best. I’d have to chime in with that as well but with a twist. My mom has influenced and encouraged hundreds and hundreds of young women to pursue a skill and impact workplaces. She has seen them grow into incredible adults, been to their weddings, held their children and seen many of her student’s children graduate.
Before she retired after 30+ years of teaching, she received her Master’s Degree, remarried a phenomenal man, and started her career as world’s best grandmother. She continues to put forth a witness of grace, joy and encouragement to all that she encounters.
So, today, I’d like to say THANK YOU !! Thanks to my mom and to all the moms who are out there in homes and in the workplace. You make the world a better place because of who you are and all you do !!