Archive for the ‘Lessons from dad’ Category

Happy 59th Birthday Dad RIP

Posted: March 19, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad
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My Dad

My Dad

Today my dad would have turned 59.  He died 4 years ago of complications from diabetes of all things.  He had a great deal wrong physically but in the end it was a heart attack attributed to diabetes.  Today, I honored his memory by running 13.5 miles.  It’s the furthest and longest time I’ve ever run.  My dad had a saying he would tell me and my brothers ALL the time, “Your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”  That saying had driven me and my brothers for years.  We basically just know one speed and that’s “hard.”  We may not have been the brightest, fastest, strongest or most talented but there were very few people that could out work us.

This is always an emotional time of year for me.  Not only is it my dad’s birthday but 10 years ago my little brother reached the apex of college sports by being a major part of the Marquette team that went to the Final Four.  My brother started all 33 games that year.  His work ethic reminded me of the lessons my dad would teach us about being physically tough.  I’d like to think when the picture below was taken after they beat #1 Kentucky to reach the Final Four he thought of those words.

Todd Townsend

Todd Townsend

To this day we just don’t know how to turn that voice off in our heads.  It drives all of us as fathers, husbands and employees.  The fact that my dad died of diabetes and I’m inflicted with the very same decease forces me to work harder on my physical fitness than almost any other area of my life.  That’s why I ran 13.5 miles in his honor.  I’ve always had this goal in my mind.  A few years ago, I came pretty close to it but came up lame at about 11 miles.  I actually didn’t set out to run over 13 miles when I started but as I got to thinking about my dad I just physically couldn’t stop running.  All I could think about were the cold winters in Chicago when my dad had us in the alley helping to change engines and transmissions to help make ends meet.  I wanted nothing more than to go in the house.  But then he’d say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”

I remember him teaching me how to lift weights and just after a few reps I’d want to sit the weights back on the rack and go and relax and then he’d say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”

I remember in high school waiting to the last minute to write that computer program for the science fair and falling asleep at the keyboard and he’d peek into my room and say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

I remember coming to him as an adult and telling him how tired I’d become from working 2 jobs trying to support my family. “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

College as an adult and work – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

Getting diagnosed with diabetes – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

That 10th mile of running tonight – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

Me in tears at the 11th mile –“Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

My whole life, I’ve heard these words.  I may not always be able to push my body past the limits but I know the speed at which my dad lived his life and how me and my brother go. – Hard!

Me and My Brothers

Me and My Brothers

Happy birthday Dad, we love and miss you dude.

How a “toy” changed my life

Posted: March 5, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad

10 Print “Hello World!”;

20 Goto 10

That was on of the first computer program that I ever wrote.  It came straight out of the programming manual that came with my Color Computer 2 (CoCo 2).  Actually, I had just watched War Games with Matthew Broderick a couple of weeks before and was pretty disappointed that this thing didn’t include an AI interface.  My father brought me this few hundred dollar toy that changed my life forever.  I was in 5th grade and wanted to be a chef to this point in my life.  I loved baking and thought that was what I wanted to do for sure.

That was until that faithful Christmas and I hooked my computer up to my black and white 13” TV via an RF modulator.  My dad spared no expense.  He had no idea what he was buying and got the tape drive so I could save my programs.  He had no idea of what a tape drive did.

I gradually got better at programming.  By far the most complicated application I wrote on my CoCo was a hit the target game.  I spent many of nights debugging code so long that my father would come wake me up the next morning for school with the machine in my lap.  This eventually grew to my x86 (8088) programming experience where I actually made computer games that worked their way across my high school campus.  There’s something uniquely satisfying about walking into the computer lab and seeing the jock playing a game I developed using ASCII graphics.  I even had a psuedo little software company that I was in competition with my best hacker friend.  The name of my company was H.A.C.K. (Hackers Against the Common Knerd) Software and my buddy Sheldon Pasciak’s company was Dog Star software (I know lame).

I probably couldn’t program my way out of paper bag today.  I’m completely an infrastructure guy now.  Of course I’m completely comfortable with a command line; that is when anyone is naive enough to let me get in front of a production machine anymore :) .  But, outside of the occasional script no programming for me.

I’m so grateful to my dad for his sacrifice and investment.  This is one of the reasons I blog.  To pay it forward.  So you can thank my dad for all the technical posts.

Virtualized Geek indeed.

Your body may give out but don’t ever give up!

Posted: January 28, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad
Tags: ,

I was running outside in Chicago in 20 degree weather and it reminded me of my dad. Just after a few minutes there was nothing more I wanted to do but stop, go in the house and warm up. But, all I could see in my mind was my dad saying, “Son, your body may give out on you, but don’t ever give up!” I ran for about an hour and a half and had gone better than 7 1/2 miles. My dad passed away about 3 years ago but I remember these words as if they were spoken just yesterday.

My dad was as physically tough as they get. He was an alley mechanic by trade, not only was he the strongest man I knew he was the toughest one as well. He would have me, my older brother and my younger brothers (when they were old enough) come out to the alley and help him work on cars. The problem was that Chicago get’s cold. If you’ve never experienced 20 degree whether with a wind chill then you don’t know what it’s like to work in the cold. Then try using metal tools to twist bolts in that weather. I hated everything about it. My hands would sting, my toes would go numb and my face would hurt.

He would routinely scold me about being too soft using this phrase. After about 20 minutes of helping him, I’d wanted to stop go in the house warm up to some hot tea and food. I really didn’t understand that the hard work that my dad was trying to get me to do provided the hot tea and warm home. I just wanted the comfort.

I pursued a career in technology so that I would never have to do what my dad did to provide food and shelter for my family. But the impact was made and I can’t do anything to change it. My wife often complains that I put myself in unneeded physical strain. I’m sure if you asked my sister-in-laws and my soon to be sister in-laws they’d say my brothers are the same. In order to fight off diabetes and continue to provide for my family I have to run. Diabetes doesn’t care if it’s 20 degrees outside or if I had a hard day at work. It doesn’t care that my feet hurt, or that I have some deadline at work. It wants very much to kill me and stop me from providing for my family. I understand my dad now.

I guess I wish down deep I was as tough as the old man.

I run to make my dad proud!

I “passed” physics my senior year of high school with a D-. For some reason, I just could not wrap my head around the material. I had always been a good student, without putting forth much effort, and never got a grade lower than a B. But, there was just something about physics that I didn’t grasp. So when the teacher asked if anyone knew Newton’s three laws of motion, and my hand shot into the air, she looked suspicious. Despite her misgivings, she called on me, and I proudly recited:

“A body in motion will remain in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. A body at rest will remain at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

The teacher was surprised.

When I would ride in the car with my dad, he was always teaching me things. And one of the things he drilled into my brain were Newton’s Laws of Physics. He left out the most complicated one (something about force and mass and vectors… I still don’t know it!), probably because it would be hard for a seven-year-old to grasp. But he would spend car rides talking to me about physics, the planets and space, and mechanics. I was, and still am, a total science nerd. He did this so much that I easily remembered Newton’s Laws long after I was “too cool” to listen to my dad’s lessons in the car. He talked to my brother about sports. He talked to my sister about softball. He talked to my other brother about boy scouts and building things. He talked to us about what WE cared about.

Fred Clauser Family Photos

My dad was the typical suburban dad. He coached my soccer team, and my sister’s softball team. He ran the clean-up detail after the carnival for the local Lion’s Club. He sat outside with neighbors and friends while we kids ran around the block and played outside. He went down in the basement and played video games after work until dinnertime, with us kids bugging him for our turn. He had to endure our chaotic dinnertime, crude jokes and bad manners, despite his desire for some peace and quiet when he came home from work. These are my primary memories of him.

I guess what you would call my secondary memories revolve around his professional life. He was a police officer for 32 years, eventually serving as the Chief of Police in Lake Zurich, where I grew up, and then Barrington Hills, a neighboring town. He also traveled to accredit police departments from time to time, and taught a class on community policing at a local college. What I remember most of his professional life, was that we had to wait to open our presents on Christmas morning until my dad returned from the police department, where he dropped off food and treats to each shift of officers who worked on Christmas. As far as I knew, he went to work before I got up in the morning, did his thing, and then came home in time for dinner.

After a long battle with cancer, my dad died in our home, surrounded by his family, at the age of 54.

My family didn’t want to have a funeral. We wanted to have a small gathering at our house, with our family and friends, where we could remember my dad and be with those we loved. Lieutenant Murphy, who worked with my dad, asked us to reconsider, and told us that there were many people he had professional relationships with who would like an opportunity to say goodbye. We agreed, my mom told Lieutenant Murphy who she thought might be able to speak, gave him two songs we wanted played, and the rest was taken care of by extremely kind and generous people.

My dad’s funeral is where I learned that my sister, brothers and I only knew a small part of my dad.

When we arrived at the funeral home, there were over a hundred police cars from all over the state, and some from even further, lining the streets. The processional to the church where the service was held stretched about as far as you could see, with each of those cars flashing their lights. The service ended with bagpipes and a full 21-gun salute. Even though we were obviously all very sad, we had to admit that it was pretty cool.

During the memorial service, the hundreds in attendance listened to the Chief of Police in Wilmette talk about his time with my dad at the FBI Academy, and moving up the ranks with him in Wilmette. I learned that my dad literally wrote the book on police accreditation (we have a copy at our house). We heard the former mayor of Lake Zurich, and the mayor of Barrington Hills both talk about the impact my dad had on their communities, his commitment to his officers, the awards and honors he had earned as the head of their police departments, the deep respect people had for him both professionally and personally. I learned that when my dad was out socially he would order a whiskey in a tall glass with lots of ice, and nurse it throughout the night. He wanted to be part of the fun, but didn’t think it was appropriate for the Police Chief to be drunk, or even tipsy, in public. We heard my uncle talk about my dad as his family and friend, the only part that was familiar to me.

Lieutenant Murphy said, “He acted like our father. He thought of us like his family, and he treated us like a father treats his son or daughter. Whenever you had a problem, you could go to him. He was a mentor and teacher and an all-around great guy.”

That was the most important thing I learned about my dad from his funeral. He truly cared about people, which is what made him so passionate about police work. He was more than a co-worker or boss, neighbor or uncle or friend, he was respected, trusted and endeared by many, many people. He had a way of showing people that they were important to him through his kindness and attention in his extremely busy life. When there so many people who needed his time and energy, he was able to make each one feel important.

I had no idea. All those people would not have been able to attend the modest gathering at our house we had originally planned.


We live in a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to make our families, friends and co-workers feel as if they are important to us.

Our lives seem to be constantly interrupted by our cell phones, social media and computers. At home with family, we feel the need to check emails and text messages from work. While we are at work, we might be checking facebook and twitter, trying to keep in touch with our friends. While out with friends, we might be getting calls or texts from the babysitter or kids at home. We are often made to feel that if we aren’t multitasking, we simply aren’t doing enough.

It is worth it, though, to fully focus on the people that are important, without distraction, and enjoy them.

So, if I don’t answer your phone call, or text you back immediately, I’m not ignoring you. I’m just focusing on another person that is important to me. And when I get back to you, I want to be able to do the same for you.

What’s Your Motivation?

Posted: September 3, 2012 by RandomHighFives in Lessons from dad, Uncategorized

Everyone wants to live the American dream, but not everyone has the motivation or determination to do it. That’s one thing I believe is required to succeed, in anything. Its almost nature behavior for one to want to leisure, but no to work hard. Constantly working hard requires a motivation, something that will push you to work even when you just want to leisure around. Not everyone’s motivation is the same. My motivation, what makes me strive to do what needs to be done, is my loved ones and my mistakes. I don’t mean to brag but my family is doing well right now. Lately everyone in my family has something they can be proud to announce to other people. Their achievements are great and they have earned some bragging rights. With that being said, it would be unacceptable for me to disappoint them. I refuse to be the only one that is not accomplishing anything. A family is like a team, and a team cannot prosper with a weak link. Same thing goes with my good friends. They too have some great achievements and I don’t want to be one that has nothing to say when the “how’s life” conversation comes up. As I mentioned before, my mistakes is also a motivation for me. With mistakes comes failure and with failure comes pain. Pain is not something I want to feel everyday for the rest of my life so I try my best to make sure past mistakes are not repeated. The motivation has the be there to ensure success. So the next time you feel like quitting or giving up, ask yourself, why are you doing this, who are you doing it for, and what will happen if you quit? Find your motivation.

One of the things I loved about my relationship with my dad is that I could come with him with any kind of crazy thoughts and ideas on decisions I had to make in life.  He never really judged me or tried to change my mind.  He just armed me with information and let me make my own decision.   He would also advise me to never let my decision be someone else’s thoughts but my own decision.  At the end of the day I wouldn’t look back and say, “Why didn’t I just follow my own thoughts?”

Recently, my oldest son came to me to discuss leaving school.  I take education extremely seriously and he knows this but I also want him to feel as if I’ll support him in any decision that he makes.  I find it difficult to do as my dad did for me.  He’s my son and it’s my opinion that it’s the best time in life for him to go to school.  In the back of my mind I remember the crazy things I’d tell my dad and now I wonder what he really thought or wanted to say.

My wife came to me after the conversation and said it was my entire fault.  All she heard was my words in his voice.  I had to laugh.  I thought the complete opposite.  She said he spoke of being a leader and making decisions based on what he felt was right.  He doesn’t want to do something just because it’s going to make us happy or it’s the popular thing to do.  Where does the kid get this crap from :). Just do what I want and not what I say, fine time to listen to me now kid.

I have to just face it.  My son is a grown man that I’ve trained well.  Thanks a lot dad.  Somehow I feel you are looking down on us with that stupid knowing smirk I’ve seen so many times.  It seems growing up never stops.

My brother reminded me of an event in his life that made me again admire an attribute of my dad – his ability to be truly interested in all that we do.

As the story goes, my brother had to be in 1st grade when he came home from school and was really excited.  He had learned to count to some obscene number.  Let’s say 100.  He told my father the great news and asked if he could  listen while he showed him.  Now my dad worked hard.  I mean not the type of “hard” work that I do but truly hard.  My brother recalled how he sat there patiently as he counted to 100 after my dad had been  fueling jets all day in one of the harshest environments you can conceptualize.

It reminded me of how I’d describe in detail how I solved some infinite loop problem I had in some application I was writing. Or how I created some killer subroutine so it would make future programs easier to write.  My dad had no clue of what I was talking about but he would sit there patiently and try to understand but more importantly listen.  I’m not talking the passive listening that I’ve mastered over the years.  He truly was vested in what I had to say.

As both a parent and a leader this has taught me to listen to the people that I lead.  It means more to them than I sometimes realize.  The fact that I have a vested interest in the desires and victories helps to inspire just as my dad did for me and my brothers.

Dreams of my Father

Posted: August 12, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad

Dreams of my father

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

– Lanston Hughes

One of the things that I loved about my dad was his dreams and his ability to have vision where others didn’t.  My dad had a way to inspire us through dreams and visions for our lives.  As my father’s illness progressed he started to lose his vision for his own dreams.  One of the most depressing and discouraging conversations I ever had was when he came to the realization that he’d never reach his own dreams.

1976 Stingray – My Dad’s Dream Car

Dreams are one of the things that separate us from all other creation  They guide our daily actions and give us hope.  My father whose motto in life was, “Your body may give out but never give up”, lost his hope later in life.  What I learned from his loss was to always dream.  My dreams may become deferred but I can still dream new dreams and accomplish great things through God.

A man who dreams is a dangerous man.

My Dad – What I remembered right after he died

Posted: August 11, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad

I wrote this a few days after my dad passed away.

My dad has given me some really bad advice in the past. I mean some stuff for the books. If I were to tell my kids some of the stuff that he had advised me to do they’d look at me as if I was crazy. He wasn’t perfect. I can ramble down a list of ways he has permanently damaged me psychology. But, I’m scared to think of the man I would be without his examples, guidance, support and love.

That’s what I’m most grateful about. He took the time to really listen to my dreams and problems. I remember having him cornered for hours talking to him about computers when no one else would listen. My dad had a GED and knew absolutely nothing about computers. But he would sit there and listen to me go on and on about the latest program I wrote and how I solved an infinite loop problem or some broken if then logic…Exactly

I have three kids and a grand baby now and I’m amazed at how he took the time to get to really know each one of his sons.

I remember how physically tough and strong of a man he was. Standing at 6’8” 285 pounds he could bench press a rear wheel transmission in the air while I and my brother tightened the housing bolts. I remember when he would work on cars in the alley on the side after putting in 50/60 hours at work. One day he had me and my brother helping him and it was something like 15 or 20 degrees out. After a half hour I was ready to go in the house and warm up. He would just give me this look that I didn’t understand until I tried to teach my sons the importance of pushing through.
On one particular day that we didn’t have food for dinner, he also didn’t have enough money for gas for our car so he lead us on our bikes to go over our granny’s house 6 miles away to get a single chicken to bring home for dinner.

A couple of weeks after getting one of his legs cut off later we were all standing around in the alley and my youngest son looks over and says, “Mr. G’s leg grew back!” He learned to walk on a prostatic leg in like 1 day. A year or two later they took the other leg and he had another prostatic and walked for a few more years.

I remember this same man that used to tell me “Your body may give out but don’t you ever give up” body being wrecked with pain wanting to give up. It scared me to think what he was going through. He had so much wrong with him physically we couldn’t even get insurance to try and cover eventual burial expenses. Things just weren’t looking good. That was over 4 years ago. He lived with diabetes for over 25 years, HIV for 18 years and kidney failure.

That’s my dad and I’m proud of him warts and all and most importantly that’s the elk from which me and my brothers are cut. Life will continue to knock us down but we are Wilbert Gatheright’s sons and you will know that we were here.

Your job is done now dad rest in peace. I love you and thank you more than you will ever know.

Originally posted on Facebook 05/29/09