The Best Gift I Ever Received
By Bob Burg

Somewhere before I've heard the saying, "The best gift parents can ever
give to their children is to love each other." I've had the pleasure of
witnessing the truth of this statement for over 40 years. From as far back
as I can remember my Mom and Dad were a team. A great partnership. They
were more than just a partnership. It was as if they were one person. They
could drive us kids crazy sometimes, because they were always together
"against us." (Okay, so it just seemed like that.)

They were really just together in their love "for us", making sure their
brood understood the difference between right and wrong and the
foundational principles of honesty, trustworthiness, and respect.) Sure,
they argued (although, not that much), but there was never any doubt in our
minds that any disagreements would be worked through and resolved. Most of
my friends, unfortunately, didn't feel that same sense of security when
their folks argued.

Mom and Dad began their married life poor, but they worked hard and, over
the years, built a very successful business. They each had their strengths
and weaknesses, but the way they worked together, you never saw the
weaknesses, just the strengths. Dad was the outgoing, more public person
with whom people met and right away fell in love. Everyone knew Dad! Then,
when they got to meet Mom, they felt the exact same way about her as well.
Mom, although not at all shy, was more comfortable being the person behind
the scenes. More detail oriented, she ran the books and, according to Dad,
was the one who "really made the business work."

I remember one night at dinner asking Dad how much money he made. (Doesn't
every teenager want to know!) Dad simply replied, "I don't know, Mama
handles all that." I looked at Mom and asked, "Is that true? Dad really
doesn't know how much money he makes?" She replied, "Yes, he never has
known, and he never asks." All three of us kids looked at Dad for an
explanation. His approach was a simple one. "If we want to buy something
and Mama says we can afford it, we can afford it."

For my mom and dad, marriage was never a 50/50 arrangement. It was 100/100
- each totally devoted to the happiness of the other. And, because of that,
they each received even more joy than they gave. Dad once told me that
"true love is when you actually care more about the other person - you love
that person more - than you do yourself."

One of my greatest lessons from Mom was the time I told her, as a boy in my
mid-teens, that even after I got married one day, she'd always be my
favorite girl. Immediately - in a kind but definitely serious manner - she
said, "No I won't be. When you get married your wife will be the most
important person in your life, and that includes Daddy and me." The biggest
lesson about love and marriage that my mom and dad taught us kids was on
how to talk "about" your spouse. Have you ever heard husbands and wives,
when speaking to others, make unkind remarks about their spouses? It's one
of those things people just seem to do. Sure, they're "only kidding," or
maybe they are not. But words matter. And words teach, whether positively
and negatively.

You would never hear such a thing from my mom and dad. Dad always speaks of
Mom in the most complimentary, glowing terms. As does she of him. This
lesson made such an impression on me, I still remember when I was age
twelve and we were getting carpet installed in our home. The crew boss was
one of those stereotypical beer guzzling, hard-living guys, who would have
probably belonged to Ralph Kramden's Raccoon Lodge from the old
Honeymooner's TV show. For lunch, my folks bought pizza for the crew. Dad
went to talk with the boss about the job. I was around the corner

The boss said, "This is an expensive job. Women will really spend your
money, won't they?" Dad responded, "Well, I'll tell you, when they were
right there with you before you had any money, it's a pleasure to do
anything for them you possibly can." This wasn't the answer the carpet
installer expected to hear. He was looking for negative banter about wives
which, to him, was natural. He tried again: "But, gee, they'll really play
off that and spend all they can, won't they?" Dad replied, as I knew he
would, "Hey, when they're the reason you're successful, you want them to do
the things they enjoy. There's no greater pleasure." Strike two. The crew
boss tried one more time, "And they'll take that as far as they can, huh?"
Dad responded, "She's the best thing that ever happened to me. I'd do
anything to make her happy."

I was trying not to laugh. I knew he wanted Dad to give in just a little
bit and say, "Yeah, I guess that's true." But it wouldn't happen... not in
a million years! Finally, the installer gave up and went back to work,
probably shaking his head in bewilderment.

Witnessing my dad in that moment taught me more about loving and respecting
your wife than anything he could ever have told me about the subject. Mom
and Dad are now retired and enjoying their life together, just hanging out,
reading, and visiting their children and grandchildren. They recently
celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary. They still hold hands, and they
are more in love than ever. Throughout the years, whenever Mom would remind
me that I should be looking to get married, I'd say, "Ma, I have plenty of
time." She'd jokingly reply that I don't have "that" much time. My Dad
would then look at me in that wisdom-filled, city streets bred way of his
and say, "Hey, you take all the time you need. If you marry someone just
half the woman your mother is, you'll have a great life."

I should only be so lucky.


Author and Speaker Bob Burg publishes the free weekly ezine, "Winning
Without Intimidation." To sample go to

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