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Tom Purcell: Fatherly inspiration key to learning the art of grace

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After all these years, my dad inspires me still. As I write this, the almost 89-year-old fellow is fighting to get back onto his feet as stenosis, bad knees and general old age are wearing him down. But though his body shows wear and tear, his mind remains as agile as his sense of humor.

NEW tom purcell mug (copy) (copy) (copy)

Tom Purcell

And as he fights his daily battles he continues to inspire his children. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” applies perfectly to my dad. He never was much for talking, but he is the biggest action figure I’ve ever known. He worked long, hard hours every day at Bell Telephone and took overtime work almost every holiday I can remember to provide for us the best way he knew how. He never did much for himself. His greatest indulgences included a weekly case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and keeping a $5 bill in his wallet so he could get hot coffee on cold days. His actions spoke clearly to his kids: “I’m not a sophisticated man, but I love you with all my heart and I will always take care of you.” When he spoke actual words, he always began with three: “For Godsakes, Betty…” Betty is his preferred name for my mother, Elizabeth. He met her in high school when he was 16. He told me again last week he knew immediately he would marry her and they did marry five years later. Now they have six children, 17 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Marriage is hard. Family is hard. Our clan wasn’t spared the challenges, setbacks and disagreements every family faces. But the one constant that got us through is that my father deeply loves my mother. He dotes on her. He’s lost without her. After more than 70 years together, my dad told me his heart still beats fast when my mother walks into the room — that they still hold hands every single night as they fall asleep. A child is the last person on Earth to accurately evaluate his parents’ relationship. Theirs is intense and sometimes confusing to us — but, goodness, they love each other. That is one of the best gifts parents can give their kids. My parents gave us a genuine love story — and here I am at 60 and they’re sharing their love story with me still. And my father is inspiring me still. He’s in pain every day. The most basic tasks are becoming harder. Sometimes, the frustration gets to him, but most days he displays incredible grace as he jokes, “Getting old ain’t for the weak!” I share his influence on me because I know how important he has been in shaping me and my sisters into the people we are. I think of all of the kids, particularly boys, who are getting into trouble because they do not have a father whose actions could inspire and guide them to positive outcomes in life. My sisters and I are not perfect, but we work hard to be good people and good spouses, parents and neighbors. And now, as our parents age, it is our turn to repay them — our turn for our actions to be louder than our words by showing: “We’re not sophisticated people, but we love you with all our heart and we will always take care of you.”

Tom Purcell's 2021 columns

Tom Purcell is an author and columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

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Rather than material goods or money this Christmas, why not write up a series of IOUTs (I owe you time) to give to others?

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That said, I’m in the process of purchasing health insurance for my dog — yes, you read that right. 

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Research in the U.S. and U.K. has shown a correlation between attachment to a pet and higher empathy scores, Tom Purcell writes. 

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Let's not become so infatuated with texting and emails that we lose our enthusiasm for face-to-face interaction. 

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Yes, the hygiene risk is undeniable. But the handshake is a powerful, needed form of human connection. 

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Children would benefit from a lot more time out of doors rather than behind the computer. 

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"The lessons the sisters and my religion taught me are beneficial to a representative republic like ours," Tom Purcell writes. 

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When I grew up in the 1970s, my father taught my sisters and me to “always save for a rainy day.” He was a child of the Depression, after all,…

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The best course is a nuanced view that puts history and culture in proper perspective. 

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I love winter. I love snow. I love making a roaring fire in my fireplace on a chilly day. But I hate one thing about this time of year: taxes.

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Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and D.C.’s delegate in the U.S. House, is on to something big!

  • Updated
  • 0

The country is divided, in massive debt, and our future isn’t looking so good — but thankfully, I have more immediate worries to consume my energies.

  • Updated
  • 0

America could use a hearty laugh right now, but laughter doesn’t come easily because too many Americans have lost their sense of humor.

  • Updated
  • 0

Without grace, our public discourse will continue to suffer.

  • Updated
  • 0

My new puppy entered the world on Christmas and he’s already bringing incredible joy into my family — just as many dogs, cats and other bundle…

After all these years, my dad inspires me still.

As I write this, the almost 89-year-old fellow is fighting to get back onto his feet as stenosis, bad knees and general old age are wearing him down.

But though his body shows wear and tear, his mind remains as agile as his sense of humor.

NEW tom purcell mug (copy) (copy) (copy)

Tom Purcell

And as he fights his daily battles he continues to inspire his children.

The old saying “actions speak louder than words” applies perfectly to my dad.

He never was much for talking, but he is the biggest action figure I’ve ever known.

He worked long, hard hours every day at Bell Telephone and took overtime work almost every holiday I can remember to provide for us the best way he knew how.

He never did much for himself.

His greatest indulgences included a weekly case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and keeping a $5 bill in his wallet so he could get hot coffee on cold days.

His actions spoke clearly to his kids: “I’m not a sophisticated man, but I love you with all my heart and I will always take care of you.”

When he spoke actual words, he always began with three: “For Godsakes, Betty…”

Betty is his preferred name for my mother, Elizabeth. He met her in high school when he was 16.

He told me again last week he knew immediately he would marry her and they did marry five years later.

Now they have six children, 17 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

Marriage is hard. Family is hard. Our clan wasn’t spared the challenges, setbacks and disagreements every family faces.

But the one constant that got us through is that my father deeply loves my mother. He dotes on her. He’s lost without her.

After more than 70 years together, my dad told me his heart still beats fast when my mother walks into the room — that they still hold hands every single night as they fall asleep.

A child is the last person on Earth to accurately evaluate his parents’ relationship. Theirs is intense and sometimes confusing to us — but, goodness, they love each other.

That is one of the best gifts parents can give their kids. My parents gave us a genuine love story — and here I am at 60 and they’re sharing their love story with me still.

And my father is inspiring me still.

He’s in pain every day. The most basic tasks are becoming harder.

Sometimes, the frustration gets to him, but most days he displays incredible grace as he jokes, “Getting old ain’t for the weak!”

I share his influence on me because I know how important he has been in shaping me and my sisters into the people we are.

I think of all of the kids, particularly boys, who are getting into trouble because they do not have a father whose actions could inspire and guide them to positive outcomes in life.

My sisters and I are not perfect, but we work hard to be good people and good spouses, parents and neighbors.

And now, as our parents age, it is our turn to repay them — our turn for our actions to be louder than our words by showing:

“We’re not sophisticated people, but we love you with all our heart and we will always take care of you.”

Tom Purcell's 2021 columns

Tom Purcell is an author and columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

  • Updated
  • 0

Rather than material goods or money this Christmas, why not write up a series of IOUTs (I owe you time) to give to others?

  • Updated
  • 0

That said, I’m in the process of purchasing health insurance for my dog — yes, you read that right. 

  • Updated
  • 0

For decades it was the one day of the year we could all forget our worries and live in the moment.

  • Updated
  • 0

The clock changes involve some serious medical considerations for many. 

  • Updated
  • 0

More than 1,200 shopping malls shot up in the U.S. after the earliest examples were built in the 1950s.

  • Updated
  • 0

Our country's spirit of optimism is sagging. At least this change of season offers opportunities for enjoyment. 

  • Updated
  • 0

Rural self-reliance and self-confidence are important virtues. 

  • Updated
  • 0

It's going to be a major challenge for columnist Tom Purcell this Labor Day weekend. 

  • Updated
  • 0

Research in the U.S. and U.K. has shown a correlation between attachment to a pet and higher empathy scores, Tom Purcell writes. 

  • Updated
  • 0

Columnist Tom Purcell explains what happened when the federal government made the naturalization test more difficult. 

  • Updated
  • 0

Let's not become so infatuated with texting and emails that we lose our enthusiasm for face-to-face interaction. 

  • Updated
  • 0

Yes, the hygiene risk is undeniable. But the handshake is a powerful, needed form of human connection. 

  • Updated
  • 0

Children would benefit from a lot more time out of doors rather than behind the computer. 

  • Updated
  • 0

Tom Purcell: I have a long history of failing to anticipate economic shocks that shake up my life. 

  • Updated
  • 0

"The lessons the sisters and my religion taught me are beneficial to a representative republic like ours," Tom Purcell writes. 

  • Updated
  • 0

When I grew up in the 1970s, my father taught my sisters and me to “always save for a rainy day.” He was a child of the Depression, after all,…

  • Updated
  • 0

The best course is a nuanced view that puts history and culture in proper perspective. 

  • Updated
  • 0

It’s February. It’s cold. To fend off the winter blahs, I dream of one day retiring to a warm beach, where I’ll stand in the surf, sipping bev…

  • Updated
  • 0

I love winter. I love snow. I love making a roaring fire in my fireplace on a chilly day. But I hate one thing about this time of year: taxes.

  • Updated
  • 0

Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and D.C.’s delegate in the U.S. House, is on to something big!

  • Updated
  • 0

The country is divided, in massive debt, and our future isn’t looking so good — but thankfully, I have more immediate worries to consume my energies.

  • Updated
  • 0

America could use a hearty laugh right now, but laughter doesn’t come easily because too many Americans have lost their sense of humor.

  • Updated
  • 0

Without grace, our public discourse will continue to suffer.

  • Updated
  • 0

My new puppy entered the world on Christmas and he’s already bringing incredible joy into my family — just as many dogs, cats and other bundle…

Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc.

Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc.

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