Thursday, August 7, 2014

Remembrance of my father

If he had lived a few years more, my father would be 93 years old today.  He was a newspaperman for his home town paper for half a century, in the days when that was a profession in which facts were just that, and judiciously weighed. He also wrote opinions: the op-ed page, a column, and book reviews. It would be no exaggeration to say I grew up in a home with 10,000 books. No one questioned his word or his character. He seemed to know everything. The older kids in the neighborhood came to him to settle their disputes. My older daughter, in her eulogy of him, said, “Grandpa was Google before there was Google.”   I remember one time from when I was very small he loaded up the family station wagon with my brother and me and a bunch of boys from the neighborhood and drove us to the local drive-in movies. A boy said, “Mr. Alexander, we can all hide in the back, under the blankets, so you don’t have to pay for everybody.” But my father, of course, paid for every child. That is one of my earliest memories and it shaped my idea of my father. It also taught me something about honesty and integrity. As analysts, we strive daily toward honesty, a heady ambition. Though dead, he remains a role model.
My father had a remarkable capacity to recite poetry off the top of his head. This was one of his favorites, from his childhood:

"If" by: Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream ‑‑ and not make dreams your master;
If you can think ‑‑ and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn‑out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch‑and‑toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings ‑‑ nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run ‑‑
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And ‑‑ which is more ‑‑ you'll be a Man, my son!