At some point in life – at least when it comes to good people – children should respect their parents.

If you’re like me, that respect blurs a little when you’re a teenager, then sharpens into love and affection once you grow up.

On March 1, my father died. It was unexpected, and like anyone will tell you, it has left a hole in my heart. He was a good man with a great sense of humor – and an even better sense of right and wrong.

So, to honor his memory this week, I’m going to share some nuggets of wisdom I learned from him over the years:

• It’s all right, go ahead and hate ‘Da Bears.’ For most of my adult life, the real rivalry for the Green Bay Packers had developed with the Minnesota Vikings – especially when Brett Favre defected to the purple and gold.

However, in recent years, the pendulum had really begun to swing back to the old-time animosity – the kind that can only exist across the state line that Wisconsin and Illinois share.

Therefore, my father supported me wholeheartedly last year when I laid down a bet with Love Inc. Executive Director Bill Schoessling – one of the biggest Bears’ fans I know – over the Bears/Packers’ grudge match game for the NFC Championship. If the Packers won, Bill needed to stand on the corner in Packers’ gear, and if the Bears won, it would be me on the corner in Bears’ gear.

Of course, the Packers went on to win in heart-stopping fashion en route to the Super Bowl title. Bill fulfilled his obligation in admirable fashion, wearing my father’s Green Bay Packer winter coat – happily donated for the great moment.

In fact, I think my dad mentioned at some point that I should frame the photo I took and present it to Bill. Ideas, ideas …

• Respect your elders – or, at least the people in charge. Like most kids, I was active in youth sports as a child. First there was softball, where I was less than dismal. My dad liked to brag that I once scored a home run on a strikeout, though, technically, it was a run scored on a strikeout, a passed ball and three or four errors.

But where my dad really left a lasting impression for me was the year I played youth soccer. I always wanted to play goalie, and one day, knowing we had a backup goalie in the game who wasn’t happy playing the position, I ran past the coach as the game was going on and said, “Hey, coach, so-and-so wants to get out of goal. I’ll go in for her!”

BIG mistake. After the game, my dad pulled me aside, hunkered down next to me and told me that, while I might like to play goalie, I would never question a coach like that again. It wasn’t my place, he explained, to say what I wanted to do – instead, it was to do what the coach NEEDED me to do.

That lesson has stuck with me over the years, from everything to being ready to play either singles or doubles on the JV tennis team in high school to volunteering for various projects in various jobs.

Listen and learn, athletes – and parents and fans, too.

• When you feel good, enjoy it – because it doesn’t always last. There inevitably comes a time in life where you will be in pain, unable to do something you once thought was easy.

For my dad, it came late last year, when he suddenly started to get winded walking long hallways. He went into the doctor, and about five tests later, discovered he needed triple bypass surgery.

The surgery went wonderfully, and he was well on the way to recovery when he collapsed March 1 and died. We don’t know what went wrong, but clearly, something did.

But up until that point, my father felt the best he had in years. He was looking forward to being healthy and happy and doing everything he could.

So, remember to enjoy life – enjoy being healthy and take pride in the skills you have. You never know when you might never have them again, and you should never be living with regrets.


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