It was a short walk from his kitchen to his combination shop and office. Along the way, we passed a large spreading tree from which hung a variety of bird feeders. It was getting dark and my father wanted to show me something in his inventor’s hideaway. I took a stool in an area surrounded by machinery, models of bird feeders, record jackets, office files, and an old typewriter.
He lit his ever-present corncob pipe and looked at me for a while with his still sparkling eyes. This eighty-five-year-old man picked through the files in the drawer. Then he found the one he was looking for. It was labeled “Annual Report” and he looked at it and then with searching eyes looked at me. He appeared to be looking for approval, which was quite often. Did he want me to comment on his company’s financial statements? Did he want to discuss family matters and possible disposition of the business?
I didn’t know what to say or how to respond. They were just sheets of paper with numbers on them being shown by a great inventor. He didn’t refer to his inventions, models or artwork. We fell silent and then slowly left for the kitchen and dinner.
Over the years, this scene has haunted me. The same questions have kept plaguing me: What was his purpose? Did he want me to take over the business? Was he disappointed in the way his life turned out? Did he think that the financial statements were all that I, a business school graduate and corporate manager, could understand?
Now the answer comes. The financial figures were the distillation of truth. It had taken half a lifetime, but the world at last had come to accept his creations and was willing to pay for them. Not only had he created useful and beautiful things of lasting worth, but they were highly valued in the marketplace. He had every reason to be proud.
Unknown to me, he knew this conversation in 1991 would be about our last. He was finishing up his life’s work at his beloved 1812 farmhouse in rural Rhode Island. He was saying, “Be guided by purpose, truth, and perfection and the rewards will come.”
Since then, I have often thought back and tried to piece together his story and our story. His was a long journey fueled by purpose and happiness whose lessons are even more relevant today.
Larry Kilham is an award-winning author who has traveled extensively overseas for over twenty years. He worked in several large international companies and started and sold two high-tech ventures. Larry has written books about creativity and invention, artificial intelligence and digital media, travel overseas, and four novels with an AI theme. He looks forward to hearing from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.