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Advice to live by

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By Carolyn Risner

I never thought my father and I had much in common despite my mother's ever-constant lament, "You're just like your daddy."

Back then I scoffed at the idea.

But then in 1993, my father died suddenly one week after his 62nd birthday and in the 15 years since, not a week has gone by that I don't somehow recall him, his words and his actions.

He wasn't an affectionate man. He grew up in an era and place where children were begat to work. He didn't know much about tenderness or bonding. His way of showing love was through providing and sacrificing so his family was secure.

At an awkward age when I was convinced he knew nothing about anything, he admonished me "Don't get above your raisin'." I wasn't sure what he meant then but over the years the cryptic meaning of his words have kept me grounded.

It wasn't that he didn't want me to not achieve, to not do better, to not have things.

He wanted me to remember my humble Appalachian origins and to realize that anything worth having is worth working for.

He never wanted a hand-out and thought little of those who sat back and waited. He went out and got what he wanted, no matter what it took.

And that's where the second piece of advice comes in.

"You have to be who you are, not what anyone else wants you to be."

He liked to say he was "common" but he was anything but.

Common to him meant being yourself, nothing pretentious or phony.

He was really one person who didn't care what other people thought of him. I doubt he ever lost sleep wondering if someone's opinion of him was less than sterling.

My mother accused him of not having a heart-of being insensitive.

But that wasn't true either.

He was kind, compassionate, giving. He just did it his way and not by some societal standard that someone else had determined was the way to be.

I've lived up to his first advice; I struggle with the second.

But I know he was right. You have to be who you are and you cannot conform to a mold or image someone has established for you.

It worked for him. Because for a man who may not have had a heart, more than 500 people came to his funeral-people I doubt he knew that he had touched somehow.

I hope I can be half the woman he was a man. I want the world to know that I am my father's daughter.