Every Day is a Good Day – Some Days are Just Better

There are many things in life in which I sit back, take a deep breath, and as I exhale, I ponder… How could I be so lucky? And in the next breath, I know the answer. It ain’t luck, I am blessed. Take a look at the picture below.

The man in the middle and the woman to the right, are my parents. “Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” they will be married 70 years this August. (The third person, to the left, is my mother-in-law, Marj, age 93 – another source of inspiration and several stories…)

How many people can say that their parents were prom king and queen in high school? How many can say that the prom king and queen in question reigned in 1945? How many would believe that the Kimberly, WI royalty from 1945 still reign? There they are, in all their regal glory. Neither of their parents owned a car, so their date consisted of walking for most of their big date night. To think about all that their lives have entailed, the winding, careening, bumpy journey that it has been, and they laugh about all that they have faced. Ask my Dad how it feels to be married for 69 years and he will not hesitate “The first 68 are the hardest.” In the next breath he will quickly add “she’s my best friend and my nurse.”

Lots of people quote Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain, George Carlin, Stephen Covey, or Jesus. I have used some of them. More often than not, I will quote my Dad. He is one of my favorite people to quote. The last two words of the previous sentence weren’t necessary.

“Everything is temporary…”

My parents grew up in the same small town that I claim as my hometown, Kimberly, WI, located about 30 miles south of Green Bay, nestled on the Fox River. The Fox River’s claim to fame – one of the few rivers in the world to flow north. My mom lost her dad in November 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression. He was killed in a car accident at the age of 22. My mom was 8 months old.

My Dad’s family was similar but still unique. His dad, a kind of “ne’er do well” as they were referred to in those days, tried farming, didn’t like it, went from one job to another. He was about to lose his job at the paper mill in town when cancer claimed him in 1943. My dad was 14. My Grandma Dietzler went from bar to bar to grocery store to liquor store paying his debts with the little that she had gotten from her late husband’s life insurance.

When asked how they got through the Depression, they look at each other and shrug. “We didn’t know it could be any different.” Now he admits that life has its ups and downs, seasons, peaks and valleys. He admits that maybe they didn’t fully appreciate all the good times while they lasted. “You know that you’re getting old when it’s not the years going by so fast, but the decades,” he says as he laughs, and looks down.

Bad jobs or good jobs, good bosses, great bosses, not so great bosses, health or health challenges, “If I get out of bed and my feet find the floor, I’m thankful for another day.” One of his favorite bromides: “Everything is temporary, take each day as it comes, be grateful for the good, and know that tomorrow is another day.”

“Don’t believe everything that you think…”

Healthy self-talk is good. We need to monitor that inner voice. The advice to not believe every thought that dashed through my head was vital to coming back from my own struggle with depression. Dad never said it in so many words, but I think that he fought those demons as well. He knows how the mind is one of our greatest gifts. He also knows that if we don’t regulate how we think, we can starve ourselves on a diet of negative internal dialogue.

It was not a glamorous life. He provided a comfortable home and a decent standard of living for my three brothers, my sister and I.

He only went to college for one semester, found out that engineering was too much math and came back to Kimberly in January 1947, at the ripe old age of 18. He worked at the paper mill in town for 44 years. He served his church and was on the board of directors for the local credit union for more than 35 years. For years he read Newsweek and US News and World Report but then turned to books. He keeps a journal for all the trips that they have been on, and all the books that he has read. It was not a glamorous life. He provided a comfortable home and a decent standard of living for my three brothers, my sister and I. Did he always love what he did? Was he always gloriously happy and upbeat? Were there times that it would have been easy to brood and wallow and mope? That’s when he modeled that great work ethic: he put one foot in front of the other, did his job, served his family and community and lived his life with the tools that he was blessed with and made the best of what was available.

Jobs at the mill changed, ownership changed, he kept his equilibrium, positive attitude and did whatever was asked from him. They added to his responsibilities one job that no matter what department he was in, or what job he was doing, it always came back to him. In the days before direct deposit, he was given the task of handing out the paychecks; he could do it quickly without people having to say their names when they got up to the window – he knew everyone and had their checks ready.

Take one way there, and a different way back

Though he never had a college education, he has never stopped reading, he has never stopped being curious, he has never stopped asking questions. I love that we never run out of things to talk about because he will always bring up the book that he is reading or the one that he just finished. I love that no matter where we go, he wants to do what he did all the years that they drove to Florida, or to all the different golf courses that they played: “Take one way to get there, and take a different way back. That way you’ll get a chance to see new things.”

Life isn’t summed up with cute little sayings. But sometimes, simple truths are shared simply. I love that my parents succeeded at something that isn’t easy to succeed at. What is their magic elixir for being each other’s one and only, and staying that way for almost 70 years? Persistence. They just gave each other second and third and fourth chances, and never found themselves on that last chance.

Here’s another of Dad’s beautiful sayings, simple, yet so full of his optimism and his realism. When I had a crappy job, or a crappy outlook or a crappy class he’d look at me after I had once again said “I’m never gonna get this. I’m always so dumb about this stuff…” His response was ⤵︎

Never say never. Never say always. Nothing is impossible, and nothing is forever. At least if you keep trying, you know that you can keep after something, and if you always give up, you’re always going to be a quitter.

“Every day is a good day, some days are just better.” – Alan Dietzler’s response if you ask him how he is…

And I have been blessed to have this shining example as my Dad for all of my nearly 60 years. My son was born the year after Dad retired, so at the age of almost 26, his only knowledge of grandpa is of grandpa retired. Dad taught Zack the finer things of the game of golf. He instilled such a love for the game in him that Zack took the game up for his life’s work, and is now an assistant pro at a golf course.

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived…

With passing years, there have been sacrifices. Don’t talk to my parents about them. Friends have passed. Co-workers, siblings, acquaintances… they don’t make the trip down to Florida every winter any more, they don’t drive much anymore. Mom and Dad love to play golf yet, but only 9 holes, 18 is too much. “I’m just happy to be playing on this side of the grass…”

And when the day comes and they leave this life, I’ll be sad, and I’ll mourn, and I know that life will never be the same. But I’ll never be empty.

Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.

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  1. Tom, I love so much about this. It’s full of practical, sound advice from a life lived each day. My mom, who passed away five years ago, left me with some powerful words of wisdom. It amazes me now how much I can weave them into the patterns of my life – and share her words with others. Although I have to admit that her “rosieism’s,” as I like to call them, have much more impact now than when I was younger.

    As for what you say here: “And when the day comes and they leave this life, I’ll be sad, and I’ll mourn, and I know that life will never be the same. But I’ll never be empty.” – I couldn’t agree more about my own parents. My dad is still alive and pushing 85. He’s independent and always has at least three projects going – inside and outside. I miss my mom every day but I’m never empty. She left me with wonderful memories and enough love to last a lifetime.

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It made my day to read it.

    • It’s the realization that none of us will be here forever, and with every passing day the odds increase of any one day being our last. Knowing that fact is a useful reminder to cherish more, give up the useless and non-edifying and breathe deeply of all that is within reach. I’m just so thankful for every day, and becoming more comfortable with leaving a legacy of connections, and not focusing on possessions, or stuff. Thank you for your kind words, and keep being your dad’s friend and your mom’s legacy.

  2. Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute, Tom. There’s so much gratitude, love and joy resonating in it, as well as acceptance of all the ups and downs of lives still being fully lived. And “Don’t believe everything you think” is wonderfully succinct! I can relate, too, to “More often than not, I will quote my Dad.” Gonna call mine right now, inspired by you. :)

  3. Excellent story telling! I love the authenticity of just what is in the life of your father, mother and you (and your siblings). Simple, yet meaningful and fulfilling. You have definitely been blessed to be surrounded by such wisdom and unconditional love. Certainly some great things to learn about living life to the fullest no matter what happens along the way….

    Many thanks for sharing! Cheers!

  4. Oh, Tom you are so blessed to have such a wonderful role model in your dad with his simple, yet profound wisdom of living life, to be connected in such meaningful ways to both of your parents. Having just lost my dad, this article resonates with my heart deeply. Thank you for sharing your dad with all of us. The experience of reading this was like eating a delicious, simple meal that nourishes your body, mind, heart, and soul.

    • Laura, I just read your dad’s obituary today, and he truly got his money’s worth – what a truly inspiring, rich and full life. Thank you for your comments here, I’m so glad that it resonated with you. All the best to you and your family as you celebrate your dad’s wonderful life.

  5. Tom, just beautiful. Of course this made me think of my Dad and Mom who I’ve come to understand and appreciate more the older I get. Dad came of age during the Great Depression; he worked odd jobs as a young man so his family could eat. My Mom came of age during WWII, and that’s when fate brought them together. Mom was Dad’s secretary in a company making diesel engines for the Marines to support the Pacific island hoping campaign, Life in those early years was never easy. After the war, they sold ice cream toppings out of their car, I kid you not. There is no doubt that when you experience scarcity in material goods, you find wealth in personal connections.

    • They had no idea that their experience was unique, as everyone was experiencing the same thing. Dad was 17 when WWII ended, and he has such respect and appreciation for everything about that war, as he saw the sacrifices that their families made, and how many of those guys never made it back after the war, and those that did, were never the same. Thanks for your input, I love your perspective on these.

  6. As an update, last week we celebrated 71 years of marriage for those to eternal teenagers… we had a nice meal with them and all five of us kids, my wife a brother-in-law and sister-in-law. The restaurant is just a block from where my dad grew up, and across the street from where my parents had their wedding reception. They are both 90 years old, full of life, and so very thankful for all of their blessings. I am deeply touched and profoundly moved by the outpouring of love that I have received on this post. Thank you all!

  7. Tom, your story is a breath of fresh air as a glimpse into America’s past “home-town
    family-life.” Thank you for sharing it with us. It made me feel like family. Shared on all my social media pages.

  8. Tom, BLESSED. Your perspective is the how of living a successful life. There are so many things you said that prove your life has been a series of seeing things as they are and realizing that no matter what there is a thread if joy and something to be thankful for. I am thankful for you and thankful that Dennis tagged me to get my attention.

    • Blessed is definitely the keyword. My dad is such a font of cleverness, one of the reasons I wrote this piece was to get some of them down for posterity. I am thankful for all the great people who have shown me appreciation for this labor of love. Thank you for your contribution, as well.

  9. Tom…you never cease to make me reflect. Your love for your parents is clear, and the experiences they had live on through you. Many don’t have that kind of love for their Mom and Dad, and it’s a shame. You have an incredible bond.

    Well done, sir. Always good to read a Tom Dietzler reflective. :)

  10. Ah, Tom — you are just so lucky to have your parents still around! I lost my dad over 30 years ago, and he was just 71. It about killed me and my mother; he was the rock and foundation of most of the good stuff I learned growing up. Kindness. Charity. Equality of people no matter their exterior; he just loved living and he spread that feeling everywhere he went.

    Love the pictures and that you so clearly see your parents as the wonderful people they are, the ones who raised you to be the man you are!

    • Susan, one of the greatest joys that I have is that I get to see my kids interact with their grandparents – three of them still around and full of life in their nineties. I didn’t know either of my grandfathers, they had both passed long before I came on the scene, and my paternal grandmother had a stroke and was completely incapacitated when I was 10, and the other lived in California and I saw her far too infrequently. So to see my kids and their cousins enjoy the beauty of hanging with their grandparents is a blessing beyond measure. And I love that my parents and mother-in-law truly treasure all of their many descendants… Thank you so much for your comments, I do appreciate you!

  11. Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived…I take that into my heart today from this precious man in your life. I feel your gratitude Tom for life and your post is a gentle and heart-felt reminder of the people and experiences that generously pepper our lives. Keep being kind and curious. Thank you for your story and self-expression.

  12. Tom – I like your dad – wisdom, common sense, and a subtle sense of humor all rolled into one person. I always marvel at just how wise folks of that generation are considering they don’t meet the standards of intelligence set today (no college). Wonderful tribute to your dad.

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