Thursday, June 14, 2007

Father's day is no joke!

Who are your influences?

I may have written about this before, frankly, I can’t remember. I get asked about my influences all the time.

Like many writers, I’m influenced by a host of other authors. Notably, as the phtos show, Elmore leonard and W.E.B. Griffin. But I’ve realized that I’m influenced in all aspects of my life and wonder if others have the same experience.

Do you sometimes say something and realize you adopted the comment from someone else? I’m not talking about a short story or plot, I mean in real life. The non-fiction book we live every day.

Like many men, I’ve found that my dad’s comments and even his mannerisms have taken hold in me. It may have taken a while but I find my attitude is extremely similar to my father’s even though our backgrounds are very different.

My father was raised during the depression in the 1920s and 1930s in Pittsburg. He was in the army in the Pacific during world war II, or as he called it, the big war. He came home and attended the University of Miami, then went through the UM law school and settled in West Palm Beach. He was also 39 by the time I came along. And big. He was not unusually tall at 5’11” but with wide shoulders and a weight that fluctuated between 235 and 240, he was “Big John” to a lot of people.

As you can see here he is in his army uniform and sitting with the lovely Jane Wickerham, who he married and I knew as my mother.

I was raised in the comfort of West Palm Beach, Florida. I didn’t even see snow until I was seventeen when it snowed in South Florida. I was not in the military and have never actually viewed the Japanese as a threat. I attended Florida State, and, at my father’s insistence, did not attend law school, opting instead for the wildly lucrative degree of a master degree in psychology with a minor in statistics.

Despite the differences, I find that everything my father held dear, I do too. Most the attitudes my father held toward others I find I hold them too. It didn’t happen over night. But, son-of-a-gun if he wasn’t right about everything.

He believed people did what they had to do. It was a way of saying people were good but occasionally did bad things. When I first started in police work I thought this notion was absurd. Now, in most cases, I can see where people make choices that are available to them. Sometimes choices were removed from them at a young age. Maybe a lack of education, an abusive family or mental condition. I’m not excusing criminal behavior but I’ve learned through experience that people often commit crimes for reasons other than the obvious.

My dad believed more work got done in the hallways of courthouses than in the courtroom. I’ve found that informal talks often lead to quicker solutions to serious problems more than organized negotiations. Administration is the anchor on civilization.

My father worked hard every day. He believed that hard work and a friendly attitude would make life more tolerable. For a guy who lived in a tent on Guam wondering if the Japanese would rule the Pacific with an iron fist, lived when no one in the country had a job and saw snow since his first year, he had one hell of a good attitude. I believe his attitude was infectious. People liked his company. I liked his company. Even as a teenager I liked to hang out with my dad.

My dad passed away more than 17 years ago but he influences me and, indirectly, my children, more than he'll ever know.

In publishing, it’s easy to get down on yourself or blame others. I guess those kind of thoughts are easy in any job. What’s hard is being happy and a good attitude is important. If you had to live on Pacific island, dodge bullets and disease, raise kids in a hectic, crazy time and still have a positive outlook you’d influence others too.

Who are your influences?


  1. My father taught me everything good and right about being a man.

    All the bad stuff I picked up on my own.

    Thanks for letting me write something nice about my dad this morning. Like yours he was always optimistic, always fun to be around.

    And he could shoot pool like no one I've ever seen.

    Happy Father's Day.

  2. My father's major contribution to my writing career was his belief that it was just as easy to dream big and it was to dream small.

    Happy Father's Day to all you dads!


  3. Absolutely fantastic tribute to your father, Jim.....just as you beamed with pride, in a post a few weeks ago regarding your son maturing and moving onward and upward, I am confident that your Dad, though no longer here with us, still is beeming with pride [and rightly so].

    Patty.....glad your Dad gave you that little seed of wisdom which has blossomed into quite a dream indeed.


    Nothing shines as brightly as the light of TRUTH.......naked or otherwise.....Thanks to all of the contributors on this blog, and Happy Father's Day

  4. Jim,
    The mango doesn't fall far from the tree. Your father taught you well.

    I think boys' lives are shaped by their fathers...or lack thereof. I grieve for the boys who grow up without a steady hand on the tiller.

    My father taught me to set high goals, work hard, and treat everyone fairly.

    He tried to teach me basketball, but he used a two-handed set shot and underhanded free throws.

  5. My Dad beat Apple to the post with the "Think Different" way of looking at the world. The thing that he hated to hear more than anything else was, "Everyone else ..." (Has one, wears one, looks like this, thinks so ... add your own ending to the sentence). To him it was worse than overhearing either my brother and I using bad language. My dad hates uniformity, and encouraged us to think out of the box, though he obviously didn't use that language. And he's still a great individualist - if he were abducted by aliens, he would think it was the best opportunity ever to get into outer space, which fascinates him.

    Thanks for your post, Jim, and for the opportunity to think of those gifts our dads gave us.

  6. Thanks for all the nice replys.

    I obviously was proud of my father.

    I look back on all the father's days and realize what he meant when he said, "I just want a quiet day."

    I'm a little more direct. "Leave me alone for a day."


  7. A lovely homage to your father, Jim.

    My dad, after almost 30 years sober now, has taught me what strength and perseverance can do.

  8. I've often thought it was my mother who taught me to love books and reading, but my father who taught me how to work at it. He was a semi-professional photographer outside his dayjob, and he worked at it--evenings, weekends, whatever, he'd be shooting or doing weddings or in the darkroom working. And it's from him, I think, that I realized that talking about doing isn't enough, you actually have to DO.

  9. I got my work ethic from my father - and my mother. They were both raised as farm kids.

    Love my dad, but my influence is my mom. She's a sweet, thoughtful, kind, nonjudgmental woman - and believe it or not, a bit shy :) And she's...nice. Really really nice. My daughters take after her.

    Great post, Jim.