I never called Dave Ross my father. To me, he was Pop or Dad. Father sounds so formal, so British to me. Just like my mom, Dad lived 91 years. Actually, the two of them each lived exactly 91 years and 20 days. Folks, thanks for the love and good genes.

As my son Isaac often says about his grandpa, “He was the legend.” Although Dad was a self-made, successful businessman, that’s not why any of us loved him nor how he thought of himself. He was philanthropic and generous, always remembering those who weren't fortunate enough to escape the humble beginnings he had left behind. Dad was reliable and honest, and he taught me life lessons until the time of his death.

Most of us get our values from our parents, and I am no exception. Dad taught by example. He was not into corporal punishment. He had far better ways to teach my brother and me the difference between right and wrong. 

One example comes to mind. I was about eight or nine when I “discovered” 76 cents resting on the dresser separating my bed from my older brother Phil’s bed. I was a strong believer in the expression “finder's keepers.” I quickly pocketed my good fortune, got on my old bike and headed down the hill toward the local candy store. Those were the good old days when a store could survive by selling candy.

I put “my” 76 cents on the counter and asked the proprietor for 76 pieces of bubble gum. (Yes, you read it right — a piece of gum only cost a penny.) The store owner asked if my parents knew what I was doing. Once you have violated one commandment, you might as well go all the way. “Of course,” I lied, concealing my theft.

He placed 76 pieces of bubble gum into a paper bag and off I went, but I didn’t go far before I plopped one piece of gum into my mouth, where it belonged. When I got home, there was pandemonium. My brother had accused me of stealing his 76 cents. Of all the people in the world, why he would point the finger at his own flesh and blood is beyond my comprehension. He was actually screaming with anger.

Now this is where my dad comes in, and, immediately, you will see good parenting at work. He asked me if I would be kind enough to empty the contents of the paper bag, and then he counted 75 pieces of bubble gum. Pop was neither Albert Einstein nor Sherlock Holmes, but he was plenty smart enough to add the 75 pieces of gum plus the one in my mouth and come up with the number 76. Rather than beat the living daylights out of me, he had a far better plan. He gave everybody in the family “my” gum. Grandma, Mom, Dad, and even Phil were given gum.

I told you Dad was generous, and so I reached for some gum myself when the generosity ended abruptly. “Not so fast, Mr. Thief,” he declared. For a week, my family chewed away, except for me. And naturally, my allowance was debited 76 cents, which went directly to my brother. I never stole anything again.

Miss you, Dad, and your wisdom.

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