Momentum – A Lesson Learned From My Purpose Driven Father

Momentum – A Lesson Learned From My Purpose Driven Father

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My dad is far from perfect.  Anyone that knows him could tell a story where my dad has stumbled, failed, or offended them.  Like all of us, he is fallible, but what separates him from most, is how he responds to failure and what he does during times of conflict.

I always looked forward to coming back home for Christmas vacation during my college years.  Christmas is a fun time around the Rheam household, because my mom ensures our home is beautifully decorated and prepared to host her family during the holidays.  The living room usually boasts a huge Christmas tree with dozens of carefully wrapped presents under the tree.  The fragrance of freshly made peanut butter balls and tapioca pudding greeted me when I would come through the door.  Being home for the holidays was a comfort zone for me and a time that I could allow the stress of my life to melt away and be a kid again.

On one particular Christmas, during my senior year at West Point, my dad accidentally burned up our house.  Not only did he torch the garage, but my brand new jet black Nissan Pathfinder melted from the intense heat of the roaring flames that engulfed the garage, taking my mom’s cherished Mercedes’s and my dad’s Honda Helix as well.  Black smoked engulfed our house causing so much damage that everything had to be replaced.   The Christmas gifts, which my mom carefully selected and meticulously wrapped were not spared.  Black soot coated the gifts and ruined the Christmas tree.

We stood out in the cold and watched the firemen storm through our house, break out the windows, tear through the walls and soak our home down with an endless supply of water in order to squelch the hot flames from totally destroying our family home.  I was stunned as I observed the black paint boil off my brand new truck.  I could hear my mom quietly sobbing as she watched our family memories go up in smoke.

My sister was pregnant at the time and had come home from Texas to visit during the holidays.  She was crying and hugging my mom tightly in her arms.  Her husband, Daryl, was with my dad trying to figure out what happened.  How did our house catch on fire?  Was it arson?  My dad was the Chief of Police at the time and was accustomed to getting threats.  Could someone had done this on purpose?

Dad’s shoulders dropped and the energy left his body when a fireman walked up with a charred paper bag.  The source of the fire came from hot ambers that were placed in a paper sack and left in the garage with the trash.  That morning, Dad cleaned out the fire place and put the ashes in a paper bag.  He thought the ashes were cool, but alas a single hot amber was buried at the bottom and ignited the paper bag while we were away that morning.

The fire was my dad’s fault.  He looked over at us, the pain in his face was visible.  We were only days away from Christmas and he caused our pain.  It hurt him deeply.   He walked over to us, “guys, this was my fault.  I’m sorry.”  He looked down and shook his head. “I will make it right.”  And that is exactly what he did.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Dad took action and began picking up the pieces.  He got us away from our house and took us out to eat and then to the movies.  We watched the movie Tombstone, sitting in the back of the theater reeking of smoke and soot while we munched on popcorn and candy.

He took us to the store and bought us new clothes and essentials so we could get by for the next few days.  We moved in with Grandma Rheam and would stay there for the rest of the holidays.  Once he knew we were taken care of, he turned his attention to picking up the pieces of our broken family home.  The next morning, he went with Mom down to the house to meet with an insurance agent to layout the recovery plan.  He collected all the presents, cleaned them off and brought them back to Grandma’s house.  He worked tirelessly to make everything right.  He never complained, never moaned about the situation, he just started fixing things.

Christmas was great that year.  We had a wonderful time and was probably one of our greatest holiday seasons together, because we learned the value of family once our material possessions were taken away from us.

It truly hurt my dad when my new truck was damaged in the blaze.  “I will make this right, son.” He looked me in the eyes when he put me on an airplane and sent me back to West Point, without my car.  Several weeks later, Dad came out to visit me in New York and he did not come empty handed.  The memory of my dad pulling up in my beautifully restored pathfinder was a thrill.  Not only did he get it fixed, but he upgraded it with a custom made grill on the front and nicely tinted windows. He had it detailed before he brought it back to me and it looked sharp.  However, it was my dad’s smile that I remember the most.  I could see the relief in his eyes.  Everything was back in order.  He made things right and for him that was always his goal.

That Christmas, life took a shot at my dad.  He felt it in his gut and was sick to his stomach when so much pain was caused by a simple mistake that he made.  Instead of wallowing, he just kept moving and never lost momentum.  My dad taught me in that moment that life is going to hand you a fair share of setbacks.  In times of strife, never stop moving forward.  Don’t look back, don’t pause and fret over things that cannot be undone, just keep moving and fix what you can control and forget the rest.

Dad demonstrated the power of momentum.  Never lose it and life will always yield to your inevitable success.  Have you slowed down or stopped moving in your life?  Do yourself a favor and follow my dad’s lead, and start moving in spite of your circumstances.  Don’t get left behind!

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  1. Thank you Erick for your kind words. One thing in my life I wish I could have changed back to normal was your Sister. When she was laying on the floor, I was waiting for her husband to help me fix it. Daryl came and held onto her legs praying for God to bring her back. On the way to the hospital I was praying the EMT’s to bring her back. The final word came, she was gone. No fixing it this time.

  2. This is another good writing….I remember this so well. Mother loved having you all there and your dad and mom living with her during! I love reading your writings.

    1. Thanks Aunt Joyce. I appreciate your feedback.

  3. I’ll never forget that day, either. You were running a race (two laps around the lake) when your dad and I informed you that the house was on fire as you zoomed past us on the first lap. I loved your response, “I’ll be right there,” as you likely broke some world records running the second lap at a sub-four minute mile pace…. As a family you showed me the meaning of true love, demonstrating in the midst of devastation, anguish and pain, a bond not tarnished nor broken, and appreciating the value of one another. Thank you for giving me this incredible gift and life lesson.

    1. Thanks Devon! My parents are incredible people and have taught me so much. I remember going to the movies that night and we all smelled like soot! We had to go shopping and buy you new clothes to get you home as good as new!


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