This post is a dedication to my father – the greatest man I will ever know.
I was initially sitting down to write a blog post about mentorship (which will still come soon) and I started thinking about the different mentors in my life. Now, I have been blessed to have some incredible mentors through the years that have challenged me, taught me, and guided me through different phases of my life – so I am sure you can imagine I have plenty to say about them. There is one mentor however who has been there the whole time, 27 years, through the challenges, the bliss, and everything in between – my dad. Add that to the fact that it’s his 62nd trip around the sun and it’s only logical that give a little thanks and share what I’ve learned from the man, the myth, the legend… Frank Brigante.
From here on out I am speaking directly to you, Dad.
Even as I sit to write this its hard to express in so little text all that you’ve done for me. You have taught me so much – directly through your words and indirectly through your actions so I’ll just have to try my best to cover what I feel are the most important things that any father can teach his son… what it really means to be a man. Here are the skills and qualities that I’ve learned from you that feel the need to share with the world.
- Strength: Men are strong. Yeah that’s something all guys grow up hearing – but you redefined what strength means to me. You taught me that the strength of a man isn’t measured by the circumference of his biceps or his bench press – it is measured by the strength of his heart and his character. You’ve shown me how to find the strength to be vulnerable and sensitive when every stereotype and instinct urged me to harden my heart because “men don’t show their emotions.” You taught me to always do the right thing, even when the outcome doesn’t favor me, and most importantly you showed me how to build up my legs and shoulders (metaphorically speaking), not to carry heavy objects, but to be able to withstand the weight of sacrifice. I grew up watching you always putting others before yourself and doing it with love, joy, and a smile on your face.
- Toughness: You grew up without ever knowing your real father, you grew up getting your Christmas gifts from the Church donation basket. You could have let your past be a predicator of your future but instead you decided that you wanted something different for your life and your family – so you put your head down and you grinded. Year in and year out you worked your tail off to put food on the table, to put money away so we could get the college education that you couldn’t, so that we could travel the world as a family and enjoy incredible experiences. Even when we went through our ungrateful shithead phases where we threw it all back in your face, you kept up and set a standard for toughness that I will never forget and that I will always strive to live up to.
- Bravery: You taught me to be fearless when I step into any situation, no matter how uncertain it may seem. Not because of some foolish overestimation of my own abilities but because you taught me to have faith in the face of anything that comes my way. Growing up, and still to this day, you always took the time to point out God’s hand in every situation when I couldn’t see it myself. You showed me that that nothing is a coincidence and everything is as it should be at all times because God is always in control. I can’t tell you how much peace this has brought me throughout my life and how much confidence its given me to continue to push myself beyond my known limits.
- Work Ethic: “Commit to the Lord all that you do…” man, if I had a dollar for all of the times you’ve said that…LOL but in all seriousness, you are the physical manifestation of that expression. From cleaning the house, waking up extra early so you can make breakfast for each member of the family, to gathering us around the table to read the Bible and speak wisdom into our lives during times when we needed it most, you never half assed it – you always go full ass. But in all seriousness, no matter how big or small the task, you do it with the same level of love, care, and dedication – and that’s something I can’t say the same thing about anyone else that I know. A tip of the hat to you on that one.
- How to treat a woman: Like every father should, you showed me how to treat and talk to women. But your lessons are different – they’re never the “hey, you come here often” or “grab them by the p***” bullshit. No – in my 27 years of life I have never seen you speak to or treat mom in a disrespectful or undermining way. You taught me that a wife should be your true partner in life and if/when that partnership gets out of balance, you fix it… even if that means swallowing your ego and saying sorry. You’ve shown me how to have confidence with women – confidence that doing things like cooking, cleaning, and gardening for your wife doesn’t make you any less of a man. Confidence to go against all of the gender norms you grew up with simply because you love mom and it makes you happy to do these things for her. Because of you I now know that trust and communication are some of the most important elements of any relationship and I’ve had the utter joy of watching your relationship with mom become deeper and more enriched each year with no signs of slowing down. What more could a kid ask for?
The truth is that these points don’t even scratch the surface of all that you’ve done for me and all that you’ve taught me. But talk is cheap anyway – just like you did for me, I want to show you what I’ve learned from you. You have been such a driving force in my life, you make me want to be the best man, brother, and leader I can be – because I can only hope to carry on your legacy and make you proud. Thank you so much dad, I am so blessed to have a best friend, mentor, and father, all wrapped up into one person.
BIG LOVE TO YOU BROTHA