I am the third child of David F. Parker, and all I have ever known is being part of a big family. I don’t know much about my father from before I was born because I wasn’t there. I’ve heard some things. He was the third child in his family of five siblings. He was, from what I understand, not very interested in school but did have interest in the ladies. He also loved to play basketball and desperately wanted to be on a basketball team. I’m not sure what he wanted more, to play basketball or get a date. Of course, once he met my mom, things changed. He had some kids and buried himself in school while my Mom worked to support her FIVE boys.
My earliest recollections are playing with three brothers, two of which were older and kind of buddying around with their older level of play and then one younger brother who did nothing but crawl around and pee on himself. So, I didn’t have a lot of options for entertainment focusing primarily on individual things like Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs.
My parents were ever present but also working and out doing their own thing. When they weren’t around, we were left to our own doings with a babysitter. But, when Dad would come home, we’d pile on him. He would say, “Not NOW, Cato!” in deference to one of his favorite movies, and then he’d begin to walk away before turning on his yelling “NOW, Cato!”
I remember getting in some disagreements with one or other brother and bringing it up to my Dad. He would tell me that we were a team. One time he even went so far as to say that when we got a bit older, we would be a basketball team with him as the center.
I think it was then when I figured he just wanted to put the “I” in TEAM. It occurred to me that I wanted to do that. I wanted to put the “I” in team too. My thoughts were that he must have wanted me to be like him, after all, we’re both the third child and named David, so it must have been intended that I also be a self-centered dork. I always told him that I was going to write a book called “My Dad, the Dork!” which he thought was pretty amusing. I guess I have to write it, now. I was adamant that I wasn’t a Junior, though, because I have different middle names. I made the analogy to Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, so we adopted that same reference. I never asked him but I think he liked it even though he wasn’t fully excited about being The Elder. He used to tell me that the “F” in his name stood for “Flexible.” He even has a degree on his wall at home for being a “Doctor of Flexible Sciences”. I’m not sure what my middle initials stand for. I haven’t come up with anything that clever, yet.
Growing up, I wanted to be like my Dad; the man who stood out in every crowd. My Dad was very good at standing out. He was the loudest at any event. He always had a speech or a toast to offer. He would walk in like he owned the place. Not to mention that he always had the most outrageous outfits for various events. He had crazy hats, silly glasses, dumb signs, and even Christmas pants that he wore every Christmas. Unfortunately for all of us, he wore them well after they developed a substantial hole in the crotch. Talk about a Christmas surprise.
From my perspective, we went to church just to watch him sing in the chorus, went skiing so he could hang out with friends and play “Liar’s Dice”, visited him at work so he could show off how many kids he had, played racquet ball so he would have someone to play with other than the wall, and golf so he could bet a whole quarter per hole.
We followed him everywhere. We went from Albany to Buffalo to Richmond where he was successively in charge of something bigger and grander. We went to Egypt where our maid called him “Pasha Kabir” which meant Big Prince in Arabic, and then on to England where he wrote his first book because he had nothing better to do. We went to Orlando for no particular reason and ended up in Jacksonville in the early 80s.
He was always singing, too. He would wake me up in the morning for school by singing something ridiculous like “The horse stood around with his foot on the ground” repeatedly until I wanted to strangle him. We sang the blessing before dinner and he would sing when he brought out the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. He loved singing which always annoyed me. How could someone always be so happy to wake up at 6am? I mean, really.
I went off to college and then work to make my way, failing miserably, and decided to come back to Jacksonville in 1996 to start my own business in web design. My Dad thought Fiber Optics was a new type of cereal and that computer chips were a special snack for football games. But, when I came home, he welcomed me with open arms. He allowed me to set up my new business in a corner of his office, and, though I was still trying to put the “I” in TEAM, I began to realize something. Watching my father in the workplace and accepting his invitations to various work meetings and related conferences allowed me a different perspective on him and what he was about.
My Dad was always my father, but he became my mentor, my co-worker, and finally my friend. And through it all I learned that he wasn’t at all about putting the “I” in TEAM. It finally dawned on me that ever since I was a stubborn little pain in the neck kid, what he was trying to do was put the “ME” in TEAM. Adding ME to HIS team! Once it occurred to me, I began to look around with a different eye. I found that he did that in every part of his life. He always just wanted to be part of a TEAM from when he was one of 5 siblings to when he played basketball in high school to drinking single malt scotch with his Fiji Brothers at the University of Toronto. Later on, he just decided to make a TEAM of his own. And, then, he made everyone a part of his TEAM.
I discovered that, when working with my Dad in any facet of life, everyone that encountered him felt that THEY were part of HIS TEAM in whatever he was doing. And, he never excluded anyone. He included people, no matter who they were. He made the people around him better. He made the people he worked with and for successful. He improved the lives of everyone he came into contact with because he always made it about them. He made people laugh but he was also firm with people when he felt that they were going down the wrong path.
He was always patient, especially with me, and had tremendous insights into what would work and what wouldn’t. But, maybe most importantly, he knew what he didn’t know. And, he accepted that. He would defer to people when it wasn’t in his area of expertise. He wasn’t afraid to admit fault. He didn’t always agree with it, but he didn’t mind admitting it.
He told me once that “the best way to succeed in business is to make the person you’re working for a star. By making them a star, you will be a star.” If you look into the sky tonight, I think you’ll see lots of stars including my brother’s, but the brightest star of all will be the one who helps all the other stars shine brighter; the one star that helped make me a star by making ME a part of his TEAM.