This is part of a series of posts exploring the impact that our relationship with our family has on how we define success.

Do you feel loved? How you build and lead your company draws on lessons learned from managing love in your life.

A glorious day in Boston. We heal in a fantastically supreme way. Thank you Mom and Dad for always being there for me. For worrying about me when it is unnecessary. That is love.

(The quote above is from Amanda Albion, Mark’s 26-year old daughter, on April 21, 2014, at Boston Marathon finish line where she was last year)

My father’s body lay in a wooden box, in the ground. He would now reveal himself to me, through a box in the attic. In the ground was the past. In the attic was his past. In the box in the attic was my future.

While I’d find many things in that attic’s box, while I’d wonder many things, like if he ever worried about me, and while I’d uncover many things, like the book he carried with him through the war, a cane he used as a 12-year old, personal writings of a middle-age adult I had yet to meet, I kept asking myself, “Was he proud of me?”

But what I really wanted to know was, “Did he love me?”

If love is the answer , could you rephrase the question ? – Lily Tomlin  Tweet This Quote

The patriarch of our family had left us physically. Yet as the days passed into the heat of summer, to my surprise I felt even more of him climbing inside me. I had started the process by burying his body; in the next months a lot that was buried inside me would come out, making room for something new. Something that wasn’t all me. Or what I thought was “me.” And I didn’t necessarily like it.

Waiting for our plane home to Boston, I called Marilyn. When she heard it was me, her voice halted, possibly preparing for an anger she didn’t want to hear or deal with. But I had thought a lot about what I wanted for us, and how that might happen. I also knew this might be the last time we ever spoke.

It was a different phone call than I think she expected. It came from a maturity I don’t think I had three days before. Was I growing up at 56 years old?

Was I growing up at 56 years old?  Tweet This Quote

I focused on what I felt was most important the past few days, not on how I felt about how everything played out, especially between us: We had buried her husband of nearly 50 years. That’s what had happened. I told Marilyn that just because Dad was gone, that did not mean that our relationship, our connection, was also gone.

“What do you mean?” she replied, seemingly a touch annoyed. “You already have a mother.” [And I do still have a wonderful mother, 86-year old CEO-social entrepreneur, Leni]

Though unsaid, I felt she was challenging me, and maybe herself, with, “What do you need me for now that Dad’s dead?” “Marawee [my long-time name for her as my stepmom], you raised me too,” I pointed out, with an emphasis and urgency that surprised me.

You made sure I had cleats to play baseball before you had shoes to walk. I will never forget that.  Tweet This Quote

“You took me in when I felt abandoned. You already had three young mouths to feed, and Dad was barely making a dime. You treated me like one of your own. You made sure I had cleats to play baseball before you had shoes to walk. I will never forget that.”

[When I was 13, I moved in for five years while attending a nearby private high school as a day student. I stopped living with my mom, and her only child moved in with Dad, Marilyn and three half-brothers and sister, aged six months to three.]

There was silence on the other end. A few breaths followed by a sigh. And a slightly awkward, “Well, have a safe trip home.” She was digesting what had happened. It would take time.

We have never shared a harsh word since that day. She has welcomed every call and every visit, just like when I was thirteen. And when I think about that call, when I think about the seven years since, I feel that maybe Dad loves me now. After all, I’m helping care for his beloved Marilyn.

Could I now help care for our family? Did he really love me, for me? The answers were in that box.

There are only four questions of value in life:
• What is sacred?
• Of what is spirit made?
• What is worth living for?
• What is worth dying for?
The answer to each is the same: only love.

Check out Mark’s series here:

Mark Albion

Author Mark Albion

Mark Albion left his business school professorship to answer his life question: "How can I be a Marxist and still own my own Jacuzzi?" He is now a serial entrepreneur, faculty founder of Net Impact, and author of a series of books exploring meaningful careers, impact entrepreneurship, and success.

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