My father did not actively teach, but reinforced ideas. This is what I learnt from him:

Have faith.

Act now.

Be punctual.

Be prepared.

Have compassion.

For all the trials and tribulations he faced, and he faced as much as any of us and sometimes more, he kept his faith. It was a complex religion and culture that he tied himself to. His roots went deep down and could not be disturbed. His faith was mixed with mysticism and philosophy.

He always grasped the opportunity presented with both hands and acted immediately. He spent long days waking up early and going to bed late doing just that. I cannot remember him saying “I should have done that.” He did what he had to do, and did it immediately. He made plans and stuck to them.  I am not sure if any of his plans were written down. When he died I remember seeing some notes on his desk, with cash flow projections for the company for the next two years. I wonder if he ever wrote down his plans, his mission, and his affirmations?

He taught me to be punctual. He said things like for a business meeting it was acceptable to be ten minutes late and for a social meeting thirty minutes late but he was never late. I am not sure how he coped with Greek time, which is notoriously tardy. Most times you are lucky if a Greek gets the right day, never mind the right hour. They might own the fanciest Swiss watches but their time keeping skills are terrible. A bit like their national budgeting skills.

Whatever he did, and whatever I did, he emphasised preparedness. For his meetings he would read the minutes and make notes on the agenda. For cocktails with ambassadors and CEO’s he would have his secretary type up notes of their wives’ names, hobbies, children’s’ details and he would go through these while dressing, slipping on the well used tuxedo. He expected us to study for exams, and most times we did. I had to; I was never clever enough except in mathematics. He was distraught the year I left engineering for medicine. Before my final Applied Mathematics Exam I was notified by the secretary at medical school that I had been accepted. So I celebrated and got drunk. I wrote the exam the next day and passed with distinction.

The last time I rode in his old Mercedes in Alberton we stopped at the traffic light and he fumbled in the console between the seats to find change for a beggar. He had a small Tupperware filled with R5 coins which he handed out all day. He never said things like “I wish the police would remove these people” or “surely they can find a job “or “he’s not really blind”. He just gave. He was religious about visiting friends and family who were sick. He would make arrangements for the surviving family of those who died and he helped many people out by funding their failing businesses and helping them get back on track.

As I think about it I learnt a lot more than these five things. This was a start.

My Mother and Father at the Acropolis circa 1966

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