Friday, June 14, 2013

Three Things I Learned From My Father

Those of you who've read this blog before know that my dad died in a tragic way -- he and my mom were hit by a drunk driver, which led to both their deaths.  But I was lucky enough that my dad lived and was happy and healthy until he was nearly 89.  This year would have been his 95th birthday.  In honor of him, and of Father's Day, I'm writing about three things I learned from him over the years.

Focus on what you can do.  Soon after I was born, my dad had a serious back injury and needed to be off work for more than a month.  But he never talked about how much pain he'd been in, instead, he told me how he'd enjoyed getting to be home with me when I was a baby.  (Dads didn't do that very often in the 1960s.)  When I was eight or nine, he had an even more serious back injury that required surgery and left him with a partially paralyzed leg and on-going back pain.  He had to retire ten years early.  He also had to stop doing many of the things he enjoyed, which was hard because he was a very active person.  But he didn't complain.  He pulled out his old aeronautics engineering books from college and spent the next two years designing his own airplane.  Later he built one of the wings out of scrap wood.  I still have part of it hanging on my wall.

Get involved.  For as long as I can remember, my mom and dad belonged to and volunteered with Amvets.  (My dad was a World War II aviator.)   Every third Wednesday night, right up until the week before the crash, my parents loaded their car with soda, no-sugar bakery, and bingo cards and took them to the blind ward at Hines Veteran Hospital.  Amvets members and volunteers helped the patients with their cards, and Amvets provided small cash prizes.  When my brother Tim and I were playing music, my parents organized groups of musicians to put on free concerts at the hospital.  My parents also became involved in a local citizens group to help stop corruption in village government, were volunteer literacy tutors for many years, and well into their eighties gave rides to people who could no longer drive to doctors' appointments, on errands, or to church.  My dad never told us we ought to volunteer, and I never felt he thought it was a big deal.  It was just part of who he was. 

Think for yourself and respect others.  My dad always taught us we shouldn't assume whoever was in charge -- teacher, boss, president -- knew what she or he was doing or had all the answers.  If we thought someone in authority had the wrong facts, we should do the research ourselves to find out what was correct.  If we disagreed with a supervisor's viewpoint, we should stick to our own opinions if we believed them well founded.  He didn't hesitate to say an idea made no sense or a statement was wrong if he thought it was, no matter who said it (which perhaps didn't make him too popular with his bosses).  At the same time, my dad also taught us to treat everyone with respect.  He might question authority or criticize an idea, but I never heard him call anyone names or address anyone by anything other than the proper title.  And even if he had questions about someone's character -- for instance, a politician convicted of embezzling money -- he would say, "I don't understand why someone would do something like that," or "that's a terrible thing to do," rather than saying that person was a bad person. 

I'm grateful to have had my father in my life.  I know many people who lost their dads early in life or had fathers who weren't there or who perhaps did more harm than good.  The main way that I try to honor my dad is by speaking at victim impact panels through the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM) to first-time DUI offenders.  My hope is that by sharing what happened to my parents and our family due to someone else's choice to drink and drive, at least a few other people will make a different choice, and other deaths and injuries will be prevented.  I think my dad would appreciate that. 

Please feel free to share thoughts about your dad below.

Lisa M. Lilly is an attorney and author of Amazon occult bestseller THE AWAKENING, short story collection THE TOWER FORMERLY SEARS AND TWO OTHER TALES OF URBAN HORROR, and numerous poems, short stories, and articles.  She is currently working on THE AWAKENING, BOOK II: THE UNBELIEVERS.

Follow her on Twitter:  @lisamlilly


  1. Thank you for your heartfelt post, Lisa. Father's Day is a great day but can be sad for those who have had to say goodbye to their fathers. I'm so sorry you lost yours in such a tragic way. I'm fortunate to still have my father and we are very close. I can't imagine losing him and I'm sorry you experienced that. It makes me happy to hear that he had such a long life though.

    I admire your effort towards affecting change. I run an anti-drunk driving campaign called Stop Drunk Driving Now in the hopes of doing the same. If you're interested, check out my blog at to see what we're doing. Feel free to e-mail me at

    Thank you again for sharing! Have a wonderful day.

    1. Ron, thanks so much for commenting. Best wishes with your campaign. Deaths due to DUI driving are 100% preventable, and it's always good to see more and more people and organizations focusing on that.

  2. Lisa,

    Your entire blog is inspiring, but this post is particularly touching. Thank you for all you do to find beauty in the wake of your tragic experience by spreading drunk driving awareness to others.

    With that being said, I am a fellow advocate for vehicle safety and have something to share with the blogging community you've created here, if you don't mind. I think you'll find that this is a remarkable cause and a potentially life-saving product (at least I can hope!)

    SafeHarness is a portable seat belt designed to fit securely over the seats of charter and school buses that aren't equipped with seat belts, making safety an option for everyone. It is beyond me why these older model buses were built without seat belts, when safety restraint is a requirement and important safety feature for every other motor vehicle on the road. There is new legislation in the works that will require the installation of safety belts for all new buses, but those older buses aren't required to abide by this rule. Surely, there has to be something we can do to keep our kids safe on the bus, and SafeHarness aims to do just that.

    The makers of this amazing device need as much help as they can get to push SafeHarness to market and get it onto buses everywhere! Anyone can be of great help by sharing the link at the end of this comment with everyone they know. Or, become a life saver and make a donation. No matter how large or small, the makers of SafeHarness will immensely appreciate your contribution and even provide perks and rewards for donating! Thank you in advance. Let's make safety an option for bus riders everywhere!

    1. Alison, thanks for commenting. I'm not familiar with the product you mention, but I've often wondered why so many school buses don't have seat belts. It seems like that would be an important safety feature.

  3. Hi,

    I too was touched by your story as well. By no way am I trying to exploit a bad situation.

    But something has to be done about making our roads safer. People all over world are losing family members, with nothing in place to stop the drunks( well nothings working if it is) or warn other motorist.

    We have designed (The Drunk Driver Alert Mobile App) to warn motorist when an impaired driver is headed in their direction. We're also on indiegogo/projects/TheDrunkDriverAlertMobileApp.

    Briant Williams

  4. Briant,

    Thanks for your comment and for reading the blog entry. Your product sounds like it could be useful, I will check it out. I'm always interested in hearing about more ways to stop deaths and injuries due to DUI.

  5. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long)
    so I guess I'll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I'm still new to everything.
    Do you have any tips and hints for newbie blog writers?
    I'd certainly appreciate it.

    my blog; dui attorney knows

    1. I'm sorry about the delay. When posters are anonymous, the posts often get put into the Spam folder and I miss them. Thanks for stopping by. My best tip is to choose narrow topics you can address quickly and easily in a post so that you can write more often. This year I've shifted my focus to my general author blog, the lisamlillypad, and am working on a post a week there. I'm hoping to continue my writing that is specifically geared to DUI losses and other types of grief and recovery in a podcast early next year.