September 18 of this past year was profoundly memorable for me. My dad, who was almost 84, passed away. In the months preceding his death, as his health was failing, I pondered some vivid memories of him, especially from the time when I was a boy and an adolescent. I remembered how when I was four and five years old, we lived in a home in London, England. Our house had three stories and a kind of winding staircase. If you were on the first floor, and you climbed the stairs to the second, you could turn to your right and there'd be a banister. You could walk down the hall along the banister, come to a second set of stairs, and make your way to the third story. And from the third story of our home, you could look down the stairwell to the first floor. My dad, when I was a young boy, loved to hold me in his hands over the banister from the third story to scare me a little, to entertain me, but I always felt completely secure in his hands.
When I was 13 or 14 years old, I was having some run-ins with the law. I was caught stealing. My dad sat me down, had me kneel in my room, and explained to me how I had brought shame on him, mom, and our family, and he struck me a couple of times, as was the practice of immigrant families, at least back then. As I stood at the top of the staircase in our home, which was now in North Surrey, I felt I needed to take a new direction in my life. It was a turning point for me.
As I was getting ready to leave North Surrey and head off to Chicago to attend university, my dad, who was a very well-educated man, said, "Get a Harvard C"—meaning, "Don't spend all of your time studying. Take time to play sports, build relationships, ...
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