Carpe Diem!

 

I was very lucky for my first 54 years to find myself in the orbit of a man who lived life with more zeal than anyone I’ve ever known. Those of you who’ve read some of my posts will probably guess I’m speaking of my Dad, and you’re right! Please bear with me while I recount, in short form, some stories, a few of which I’ve told here before, that explain what I mean:

He was born on March 6, 1919, the fifth of six boisterous and energetic children, in Birmingham, England. Although not considered “intellectually gifted,” he was very bright and threw himself into his studies (the ones that interested him, at least) with gusto. One of his interests was play-acting, and he memorized yards and yards of Shakespeare, as he appeared at first in bit-roles, and then as major characters in school productions. But his pièce de résistance was his role as the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. At some point during his “I am a Pirate King” song, he flung his cloak open with great abandon, knocking all the footlights into the orchestra pit, injuring several musicians, and bringing down the curtain for the performance.

Then there was the time he and a couple of Army buddies found themselves in St. Peter’s Basilica, having marched into Rome with Mark Clark and his army in June of 1944. I suppose Dad’s ‘command presence,’ which he took with him everywhere he went for his entire life, must have been recognized by the Swiss Guard in their fancy dress, and the the three of them, as soon as they were spotted, were immediately whisked up a flight of stairs and into an unscheduled private audience with the Holy Father, who gave them each a rosary and engaged with them in a charming visit.

Or the time the witch-doctor’s curse rebounded, and the deadly spell he’d put on Dad ricocheted (see what I did there), and the witch-doctor himself dropped dead when he got out of bed the next morning. Not to mention his treating with, and then imprisoning the cannibal king who’d eaten the local tax collector, just prior to a United Nations delegation visit to Northern Cameroon UN Trust Territory.

Or the year that we spent under 24/7 armed guard, as Dad disposed of a corrupt and influential ruler and his retinue in a large Northern Nigerian Emirate. Dad, Mum, my sister (age 2) and me (age 9) were all targeted for assassination. I was never shot at. But there was that time we found the poisonous snakes in the bed. And those interesting evasive maneuvers in the car on a few occasions. That was fun. Of course, Dad prevailed, the Emir was deposed and exiled, and that was that. (Except for those pesky rumors which circulated for years afterward that we’d all been killed one way or another by the Emir’s stooges).

Through it all, Dad remained his usual outgoing, loud, hard-charging, ebullient self. I never saw him depressed. I never saw him unhappy. I never saw him pitying his sometimes overwhelmingly bizarre and chaotic lot. He just kept embracing life, making his mark, and cheerfully mowing down the opposition, no matter what form it took. May the fruit not fall far from the tree. I do my best.

And Dad didn’t stop when we left Nigeria. He was a committed and enormously popular teacher (the one that his college students called at 3AM when they’d been arrested for having one too many at the local bar and they needed someone to get them out of jail and take them home), and after he retired, returned to England, and entered politics, he was the terror of the teachers’ Union and the local Education Authority, both of whom saw much of their power evaporating as Dad “reorganized things” (bull, meet china shop) more to his liking and to the children’s benefit. His constituents loved him, and after he left the Conservative Party and ran the last couple of times as an Independent for County Council, his majorities only increased.

Perhaps the best summation of Dad came as a complete surprise, via an email after he died, from the daughter of a fellow Army officer. Her own father had died, and while going through his effects, she found his WWII diary, and a description of Dad, as follows:

I’ve never heard anyone so noisy from the time he gets up, to the time he goes to sleep . . . and after!”

That was Dad. He seized every day by the throat, and never let go. He was joyful in, committed to, and zealous about life in all its forms, no matter how it manifested itself.

I can think of some people I didn’t know, but who I believe might have exhibited one or more of those characteristics themselves. In the entertainment field, I think of Louis Armstrong. I can’t look at him, or hear him, without breaking into a smile. I think he lived his life with zeal. In politics, I think of Margaret Thatcher. When it counted, she didn’t waver, she didn’t wobble, she didn’t flinch. She was zealous about the important things. In academia, I think of Camille Paglia. Yes, she’s a bit odd in some of her ideas, but I love to listen to her when she’s on a roll. What an intellect, and (more often than not) what sound common sense and enthusiasm for her subject. The very definition of zeal.

I’m curious: Who have you known in your own life who’s impressed you with their zeal for living? Or who do you admire in public life of one sort or another, for their zeal, either in a specific area or just as it comes across in their attitude towards life?

I’m focusing on “positive zeal” here; but of course, it works the other way as well. Include such examples if you like, but please, in both instances, tell us “why” this or that person serves as an example of zeal for you.

Please join in.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She: Or the time the witch-doctor’s curse rebounded, and the deadly spell he’d put on Dad ricocheted (see what I did there), and the witch-doctor himself dropped dead when he got out of bed the next morning.

    Curses can do that, especially when someone is well-protected. But more on that soon in one of my own posts…


    This conversation is a delightful entry (I mean, just look at that smile in the picture!) in our Group Writing Series under October’s theme of Zeal. Maybe that should be “¡ZEAL!”? At any rate, we still have nine openings starting as soon as Thursday, if you happen to feel inclined to share some who is zealous or something (or someone) you are zealous about.

     

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She: Or who do you admire in public life of one sort or another, for their zeal, either in a specific area, or just as it comes across in their attitude towards life?

    Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were two others. They were physically very active men. They brought sunshine with them where they went.

    • #2
  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Arahant (View Comment):

    She: Or who do you admire in public life of one sort or another, for their zeal, either in a specific area, or just as it comes across in their attitude towards life?

    Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were two others. They were physically very active men. They brought sunshine with them where they went.

    Very good choices.  Reagan, Thatcher, and JP II could have sorted anything out if they put their collective minds to it, I think.  Thanks!

    • #3
  4. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    What a guy!  What a dad! Your dad seems to have had a ton of self-confidence and a lust for life.  Would that we all had that kind of “zeal” for life. 

    At the end, I’m sure he didn’t have to say, ”Gee, I wish I had. . . .”

    You were lucky, She. 

    • #4
  5. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    How lucky you are to have had such a wonderful example to follow! I think you have probably lived up to his expectations.

    (Just hearing you describe your Dad makes me tired!)

    • #5
  6. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Having met you, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Great Dad , great post.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Thanks for the great comments everyone, but tell me about people you know with zeal, please!

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She (View Comment):

    Thanks for the great comments everyone, but tell me about people you know with zeal, please!

    Are you sure you don’t mean:

    tell me about people with zeal whom you know, please!

    • #8
  9. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Arahant (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Thanks for the great comments everyone, but tell me about people you know with zeal, please!

    Are you sure you don’t mean:

    tell me about people with zeal whom you know, please!

    Pedant!

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She (View Comment):
    Pedant!

    With zeal!

    • #10
  11. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Arahant (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Thanks for the great comments everyone, but tell me about people you know with zeal, please!

    Are you sure you don’t mean:

    tell me about people with zeal whom you know, please!

    Maybe she wants us to tell the story with ZEAL!

    • #11
  12. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    You have the best family stories.

    • #12
  13. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    You have the best family stories.

    Thanks.  If memory serves, you have a few pretty good ones yourself.

    • #13
  14. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    I think this is the last photo I ever took of Dad.  It was just a couple of months before he died, and the occasion was his older brother’s 100th birthday.  I love this photo.  He had to wear comfy slippers on his feet, he was pretty weak, he needed a walker, but please note 1, the hat! 2) the glass of wine, 3) the beaming smile, and 4) the gleam in his eye!  Also, he’d probably want me to point out that he’s wearing his regimental tie, and that the narrow black stripe is in honor of General Wolfe who died on the Heights of Abraham in the fight that’s recorded as the regiment’s first battle honor.

    • #14
  15. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    She (View Comment):

    I think this is the last photo I ever took of Dad. It was just a couple of months before he died, and the occasion was his older brother’s 100th birthday. I love this photo. He had to wear comfy slippers on his feet, he was pretty weak, he needed a walker, but please note 1, the hat! 2) the glass of wine, 3) the beaming smile, and 4) the gleam in his eye! Also, he’d probably want me to point out that he’s wearing his regimental tie, and that the narrow black stripe is in honor of General Wolfe who died on the Heights of Abraham in the fight that’s recorded as the regiment’s first battle honor.

    His personality shines through. You’ve got some pretty good longevity genes there.

    • #15
  16. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    I think I have to write about my brother. He is the second oldest of six (I’m the oldest) and he is 64 now. He was always in trouble as a kid and he regularly got the belt from my Dad (one reason I don’t write about my Dad with admiration). But punishment never stopped him. He was going to do what he wanted to do. So much so that by the time he was 22 he was in prison for armed robbery. He was a model prisoner and was paroled after 10 years.

    And boy did he start to live and make up for lost time – I mean time lost in living a good life! He found a beautiful 19 year old Virginia southern belle, treated her like a queen and convinced her to marry him. He started work at the Virginia Parks Department and worked so hard and with such enthusiasm that he was a virtual manager after just a few years.  Virtual because he could not be promoted because he was on parole for ten years.. He was promoted the day after his parole was up. After he got home from his day job he mowed lawns and detailed cars for extra money.

    He and his wife wanted a child but it never happened. Until….they had been married 18 years when she was suddenly pregnant. So at the age of 52 he became a father and he threw himself into that job also. He joined his wife’s church, volunteered at school and church and did anything he could think of to make their lives good.

    He is a loud, sometimes obnoxious, good ole boy. Sometimes I need to get away for some peace and quiet. But there is no one with a better heart and he learned to live life with zeal.

    And he has a doormat that says Make America Great Again Trump 2020.

    • #16
  17. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    His personality shines through. You’ve got some pretty good longevity genes there.

    Thanks.  Gosh yes.  Uncle Arthur (Dad’s older brother) died in 2009, at 102.  Auntie Betty (other side of the family) died just short of her 103rd birthday.  Several on both sides lived into their mid and upper-nineties.

    I figure I’ve got at least another 40 years to go, if I’m not to let the side down.

    • #17
  18. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    I think I have to write about my brother. He is the second oldest of six (I’m the oldest) and he is 64 now. He was always in trouble as a kid and he regularly got the belt from my Dad (one reason I don’t write about my Dad with admiration). But punishment never stopped him. He was going to do what he wanted to do. So much so that by the time he was 22 he was in prison for armed robbery. He was a model prisoner and was paroled after 10 years.

    And boy did he start to live and make up for lost time – I mean time lost in living a good life! He found a beautiful 19 year old Virginia southern belle, treated her like a queen and convinced her to marry him. He started work at the Virginia Parks Department and worked so hard and with such enthusiasm that he was a virtual manager after just a few years. Virtual because he could not be promoted because he was on parole for ten years.. He was promoted the day after his parole was up. After he got home from his day job he mowed lawns and detailed cars for extra money.

    He and his wife wanted a child but it never happened. Until….they had been married 18 years when she was suddenly pregnant. So at the age of 52 he became a father and he threw himself into that job also. He joined his wife’s church, volunteered at school and church and did anything he could think of to make their lives good.

    He is a loud, sometimes obnoxious, good ole boy. Sometimes I need to get away for some peace and quiet. But there is no one with a better heart and he learned to live life with zeal.

    And he has a doormat that says Make America Great Again Trump 2020.

    Wonderful story, thanks for sharing your brother with us.  I’m so glad he turned his life around and that you and he have been able to enjoy each other.  What a great example!

    • #18
  19. CarolJoy Coolidge
    CarolJoy
    @CarolJoy

    Here’s to your dad, and to you for writing about him with such eloquence.

    • #19
  20. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Andrew Breitbart – a happy warrior.  

    (So sad about the current associations with his name.)

    • #20
  21. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    I heard Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, speak in 1970.  He had one message that he never stopped repeating with the utmost assurance:  if you are a Jew, you belong in the Land of Israel.  Only there can you fully express your passions and your zeal.

    Whenever I leave Israel for a sojourn in the Diaspora, I am astonished by the contrast.  Compared to the average Israeli, the average person living anywhere else is sleepwalking.  If you want to see zeal in everyone from a 3 year old to a 103 year old, visit Israel.

    • #21
  22. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):
    Compared to the average Israeli, the average person living anywhere else is sleepwalking.

    Ah, Yehoshua, that’s why so many of us not in Israel decided to become ever so much more than average.

    • #22
  23. Chuckles Thatcher
    Chuckles
    @Chuckles

    When I think of zeal, I think of Tennessee State Representative Mark Pody.  The man is exhausting!

    If HE had a DNA test I am sure they would find he’s a close relative of Tigger.  He doesn’t just step up to the mike, he appears more like a bouncing betty.

    His principles are conservative principles, principles are things one doesn’t abandon or compromise, and he defends them with energy and enthusiasm, one on one or before any group!  His excitement is contagious and so far as I can tell bullets bounce off him.

     

    • #23
  24. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):
    Compared to the average Israeli, the average person living anywhere else is sleepwalking.

    Ah, Yehoshua, that’s why so many of us not in Israel decided to become ever so much more than average.

    Bless your heart!

    • #24

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