A Gentleman and a Scholar

A text message exchange with a friend yesterday, which I used to express appreciation for a favor he agreed to perform for me, brought back memories that have remained with me, just under the surface, for years.  My father used to express his appreciation and esteem for some requested or voluntary action taken by another male on his behalf: “You are a gentleman and a scholar!” That was high praise, indeed, from my father. It conveyed acceptance, appreciation, respect, and admiration in such an efficient way, avoiding the sentimentality that a more verbose exposition would involve.

Every time I utter the phrase (which is rather rarely, I think), I remember my father using it, sometimes directed toward me. In those instances, his pride in me was implicit in the phrase, as well. I suppose the overblown importance I attach to the phrase has more than a little to do with the fact that my father and I rarely had substantive conversations. He loved me, I feel sure, but he was not an emotionally demonstrative man for the most part. And, given that I was his sixth and final child, he had “been there, done that.” I must have been a little less of a sparkling gem than the first five kids.  It must be tough repeating the same conversations, teaching the same lessons, correcting the same mistakes, six times, I think. I suspect he had grown tired of talking to children.

When, on his deathbed (a recliner, in fact, but it served the same purpose), he spoke these words on the last day of his life, I was inconsolably sad, yet profoundly moved: “Oh how I love you kids. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.” It was the only time I recall him ever saying out loud that he loved us.  I knew it, of course, but hearing it for what I believe was the first and only time in my life at age thirty-one was nothing short of earth-shattering.

I’ve always believed my childhood was typical, normal, unremarkable (except for having parents who were old enough to be my grandparents).

Back to the phrase, one of his favorites. I believe I must have adopted the phrase as an expression of deep appreciation simply because I knew how much it meant to my father. I may have few, if any, other of his qualities, but at least I can say his words in the way he would have used them.

“You are a gentleman and a scholar!” It is, from me, high praise and thanks, an expression of genuine appreciation. I wonder if I inherited other traits from my father, the father of six children.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to A Gentleman and a Scholar

  1. John, YOU ARE a gentleman and a scholar! I remember hearing that phrase, too and it was so implicit in its meaning.

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