Today’s memo was recorded 12 years ago.
Paul Compton had a wife and four daughters, and in later years, a fourteen-year-old son added himself to the dinner table. That son was me. My own mother was a great cook and she loved me like crazy, but Mom had to work full time and there was a lot to do in the evenings, so I fell into the habit of showing up at Paul’s house every night around suppertime.
Paul Compton is the kindest and best man I’ve ever known. Paul understands the difference between “doing” and “being,” so he never once asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Paul felt he knew who I was going to be, and for Paul, that was enough.
Many nights after dinner, Paul’s youngest daughter and I would get up from the table and leave on separate dates, but after our dates we would often seek one another’s advice. Over the next four years, she had a long string of boyfriends and I had a long string of girlfriends, but when she wasn’t on a date with a boyfriend and I wasn’t on a date with a girlfriend, Paul’s daughter and I were most likely together, usually about five nights a week.
I know it sounds insane, but Paul’s daughter and I went at least a thousand places together without it ever crossing my mind to hold her hand as we were walking.
Somewhere near the end of our senior year, as she and I returned from buying a root beer across town, I turned off the ignition, looked at her, and said, “I recently realized that I enjoy being with you more than anyone else in the world, and that makes it difficult for us to be friends anymore, because it would be torture for me to keep seeing you every night if I thought there was ever a chance it would end.” I had never once kissed Paul’s daughter good night. Six months later we were married.
A whole generation of American kids grew up being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as though it would be the most important question we would ever face. It wasn’t. We learned we could easily and painlessly change careers throughout the course of our lives. Not one of my childhood pals is currently involved in the career for which he studied. Now that I have boys of my own, I’ve elected not to quiz them about what they would like to be.
Should any person ever ask my sons what is important to their father, I’ll wager that my boys will be able to recite it verbatim. “Boys, when you’re ready to marry, don’t marry a person who has high and lofty expectations of you. Don’t marry the girl you’ve struggled to impress. Marry the girl you always thought of as a sister, the one who knows you as you really are. Marry the girl who has seen your every fault and weakness but likes to be with you just the same. Boys, when you’re ready to get married, I hope you’ll marry your best friend.”
Roy H. Williams