Growing up, my father was a tireless driver who loved a road trip; Billy always had another hour in him!
A 30-year resident of Florida since his retirement, it was only recently that dad gave up his love for the long drive and started flying to New York when he wanted to see his grandkids!
But the old paint salesman won’t be doing much driving for a while: Wednesday my father had a heart attack.
The man who could carry four five-gallon cans at a time has carried his last bucket! Which is fine because about the only thing he’s needed to carry for the last decade or so was my mom’s hand when they went out for dinner.
Since Wednesday, I find myself thinking about our years together behind the counter at a paint store. Our paint store: Tremont Paint.
If you saw his strength as a young man, you would understand my long-held view that it would take something far more deadly than a heart attack to stop my father.
And it turns out I was right!
Growing up, I watched him work six days per week for decades. My father embodies the lessons he teaches: Work hard, love deeply and laugh your ass off, even when it hurts!
We had a few laughs when I saw him in the ICU today.
When my father retired at the ripe young age of 51, he turned his attention to the only thing that mattered: his grandchildren! After my parents became grandparents, my sister Marci and I were merely Uber drivers; responsible for bringing their grandchildren, Andrew, Nicole and Panda (THE Buck) back and forth.
My father has introduced me by saying, “this is my granddaughter’s father.”
Walking into his hospital room this morning his face lit up when he saw he had a visitor. So did mine when I saw him, though he may not have noticed behind my N95 mask!
I stood silent in the doorway for a moment to let him stare at me and gather his thoughts. His smile grew as he faced me to speak the first words we've shared in person since our pre-pandemic visit December.
He actually leaned his head over to look behind me like I was hiding her!
We then spent the only 15-minutes I would get to spend with him this day talking about his three grandchildren: Panda/Buck, Nicole and Andrew.
No one nickname could ever recount the labyrinthine Buck!
Monday, maybe as you’re reading this, my dad is under the surgeon’s blade getting a triple by-pass. I’m not worried about him: I’ve seen the amount of strength he can marshal. I'm confident he’ll be fine.
When my sister called with the news that dad was in the hospital, Buck Wheat and I decided to drive to Florida: dad isn’t the only Lipton who loves a long car ride.
The paint doesn't drip far off the roller!
On our second day on the road from Stamford to Lake Worth, Buck and I got hungry passing through Santee, SC. I noticed a sign for “Craig’s Deli” and decided to make a stop. Subway, Popeye’s and McDonalds-the standard fare on 95 are not my thing and besides, they have enough money! And as you know, I am focusing my efforts on supporting independent retailers as much as possible.
We made the right choice! And not just because Craig was an independent who made great sandwiches! Turns out Craig was a former Ohio State football player who was also a Yankee fan! And he had the decor to prove it! I had finally found my long-lost brother!
In Santee, South Carolina! What were the odds?
A friend asked me recently about my father’s time in our family’s paint business.
Each independent retailer has their own way of finding success; each path as unique as a fingerprint. My father was no exception. Billy spent 35 years as the third-generation owner of Tremont Paint and his years were marked (mostly) by growth and profitability. But I think even he would tell you: it wasn’t because he was a great businessman! It was not his skills with a spreadsheet or his talents at negotiations which made him one of the most successful paint retailers in the ultra-competitive New York market.
The secret to Billy was always his personality. Possessing a charm that few can match, he used it as his sales tool of choice.
And he rarely lost a sale!