Zeal Is Easy, Facts Are Hard


Tuesday was my father’s 80th birthday. You wouldn’t believe that, by the way, if you could meet him. I don’t believe it. I always thought “eighty” was pretty darn old but my father has me rethinking that now.

A few weeks ago, my little sister asked the whole family to email in our contributions for a birthday surprise she was putting together — a custom-made book full of favorite family photos accompanied by personal quotes about all the things we love and have learned from our “Pop.”

So just before the deadline (because unlike my father, that’s how I roll), I finally sat down and started tossing, stream-of-consciousness, everything I loved most about my dad and his singular sort of zeal for life and fun and family. Things like . . .

I love your quirky sense of humor.

I love the fact that your sense of humor includes an ability to have a full-throated laugh at yourself, now and then.

I love the fact that a guy as organized and “list-loving” as you are still has such a great ability to be spontaneous.

I love the way you like to surprise people — with an unexpected treat, a midnight party, a fun night out (on a school night even!) or a surprise trip out of town.

I love the doggedness you instilled in us when it comes to righting a wrong and the attendant wisdom you encouraged in us to “pick your battles.”

I love the way you trusted us to fight our own battles but always let us know you had our backs if it turned out we needed your help.

I love the fact that you still send your girls Valentine’s Day cards.

I love the way you always made your family feel safe.

I love it that you encouraged us to try some things that scared us.

I love how good and loving a son you were to your parents, how respectful and kind you were to your wife’s parents, and how loving and caring you are to our mother.

Those and many more memories had been added to the list I was composing for submission when I got up to take a break and glanced over at the television, which had been on “mute” the whole time (this was at the height of the whole Kavanaugh kerfuffle). I sipped some wine and watched as crowds of protestors screamed into the camera and waved simplistic slogans reading things like, “#believeallwomen” — which struck me as being ridiculously silly advice and had me wondering, as a woman, who’s known all kinds of women in my life, if any of these women could possibly have met that many other women because if they had, they would know that sex is not a trustworthy indicator for truthfulness.

I’d made the mistake earlier that day of scrolling through my Facebook feed, just to check the local temperature on the proceedings and what I saw there made me very glad that I’d taken a short leave from the day job, this month. Nearly every co-worker and (alleged) adult friend of mine who’d decided to comment on the subject had posted emotional, angry screeds, heavy on the zeal and the “feelz” (and the expletives, more often than not) but depressingly short on facts, reason or full sentences. They “argued” their positions with all the thoughtfulness and maturity of angry little foot-stomping, foul-mouthed toddlers.

I thought back to some of the earliest arguments I’d had around the kitchen table with my father when I was a kid. Like any zealous youngster with an “overdeveloped sense of justice” (as my father once described me), I’d made the mistake quite a few times of assuming that any new “fact” I’d learned that day — especially if it had to do with past wrongs or situations I passionately deemed to be “unfair!” — must be something everyone else wasn’t aware of, or couldn’t possibly have felt or considered as “deeply” as I had or else they’d have done something about it! I’d speak so passionately on so many “issues du jour” with my father and God bless him — the first thing he’d do, is listen. There’d be a short silence when I finally stopped for breath, Dad would give a thoughtful nod and then . . . the questions would begin. Point by passionate point of mine would be met with counterpoint by logical counterpoint of his and I would learn, once again, that an argument based on nothing but zeal and feelz, was no match at all for a thoughtful and fair counter-argument backed up by fact and reason.

I hate being wrong as much as anybody. It was crushing to have all those ridiculously reasonable holes punched in so many of my passionate points. But there was something about getting schooled with that sort of finesse that made me keep coming back for more. I wanted to win this time — and on points, not just passion. I wanted to come in armed with some of those “fact” and “precedent” thingies that Dad always seemed to have in such abundance and hit him with such a mother lode o’ logic that he’d have to admit that I was right or, at the very least, concede that while I presented some very good points, we’d have to “agree to disagree,” (which was always his preferred way — rather than “de-friending” — of dealing with folks he liked but had a difference of opinion with on some key issues).

I thought back to those passionate posters I knew on social media, glanced over at the angry gals chanting silently with fists raised on my (thankfully, still muted) tv. “Zeal is so easy,” I thought, “facts are so hard.”

And then I returned to the computer and wrote up my final, thankful, heartfelt quote for Dad’s book:

I love the way you would challenge me when I expressed a strong opinion on some issue of the day. Sometimes, when your cross-examination was over, you’d actually concede a point to me, which was pretty exhilarating, coming from the man I respected most in the world. And sometimes, I’d discover after pleading my case that we actually came down on the same side of the issue — that you’d only played “devil’s advocate” so I’d be forced to organize my thoughts and defend my position on facts rather than just emotions. You really taught me to think things through — not by telling me how to do so, just by making me do so and I’m forever grateful for the Socratic wisdom you employed to do it.

Okay, time to wrap this up . . .

. . . and then go wish a very happy 80th birthday to the best guy I know.

And #believethiswoman when I tell you that not only can I defend that particular assessment with both zeal and facts but I would have no trouble whatsoever producing a near-endless parade of corroborating witnesses — many of whom are sitting in my father’s kitchen right this minute — and yelling at me to close the computer and come on in for a toast.

Gotta go!

There are 12 comments.

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  1. She Reagan

    Just wonderful!  Thank you, and God Bless your Dad!  I’m raising a glass right now to his next eighty years.

    • #1
  2. PHCheese Inactive

    I stopped reading this when my iPad shortened out from the  moisture falling out it from my eyes..

    • #2
  3. Hank Rhody, Red Hunter Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Red Hunter

    The main problem I have with your posts is that I see a tag like “Just the Facts Man” and am very disappointed that there aren’t more things filed under it. Time after time.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member

    Happy birthday, Pop K.

    This is delightful, Kel. Thank you for sharing him and your education with us. It’s no wonder you didn’t wind up as a tall toddler full of zeal and stuff and nonsense.

    This conversation is an entry in our Group Writing Series under October’s theme of Zeal. We still have seven openings for this month. If you would like to share your zeal or condemn your favorite Zealots, come sign up today.

    • #4
  5. GLDIII Reagan

    Kel give your Dad a happy Birthday from me. My dad would have been 84 on October 9th, seven days ago.

    You only realize how much they really taught you when you have only your memories.

    • #5
  6. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey

    What a gorgeous post! PHCheese is right; if you’re human, you’re going to find it moving. Thank you, Kel. 

    • #6
  7. Roberto Member

    Now that’s a great tribute, any father would be proud of this daughter and lucky to have her.

    • #7
  8. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum

    A Happy and  Blessed Birthday, to Pop K. and an extra hug to share!

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher

    It’s like he knew just the way to teach you stuff. Just like my dad and me.

    Thank you Kel. That was excellent.

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge

    kelsurprise, drama queen: . . . and then go wish a very happy 80th birthday to the best guy I know.

    And a belated Happy Birthday to your father from Stad and neutral observer!

    • #10
  11. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    kelsurprise, drama queen: #believethiswoman

    Yes, ma’am.  I do.  Outstanding post.  Thank you.

    • #11
  12. kelsurprise, drama queen Member
    kelsurprise, drama queen

    Thanks, y’all! 

    We had a wonderful long weekend of a birthday celebration and it warmed my heart to read the quotes submitted by my nieces and nephews and realize that they too have learned so much and are so grateful for all the quality time they’ve been lucky enough to spend with their “Pop.”  

    Another quote I hadn’t mentioned above:  “I love how many of my friends who haven’t even met you tell me how much they love you just based on the stories I’ve told them about you.” 

    Thanks for reading and I will pass along all the good wishes. 

    • #12

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