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In August 2008, I was in Chicago visiting family when the Fool offered me the opportunity to return and manage Pro. I was visiting family because, as we all know, our time here is limited, and sometimes you're given an early warning that someone's time in particular is in jeopardy. In this case, my father had been living with the knowledge of incurable cancer for nearly a dozen years. During those years, the disease hadn't shown many hints of itself, and life largely went on as normal, as least on the surface. But by 2008, he seemed to be slowing down a bit, so with our three-year-old in tow, I drove to Chicago to spend a month at home with him and my mother. When the Fool offer arrived, I pondered it for a good long while solely for my own reasons.

Pro launched in October 2008, so we had to get the ball rolling fairly quickly. We were in the midst of a financial meltdown unlike any we've seen in our lifetime. Although the collapsing market destroyed the finances of countless individuals, and hamstrung the country, already history is starting to take away its hard edge, and the sweep of time (and what it subsequently takes away) eventually dulls the drama of high finance. We invested in the most prudent, sensible fashion we knew as Pro's first year got underway, and the strategies learned over the past years proved a good crutch, giving us confidence to steadily get into the market.

By October 2009, it was obvious my father's fight was escalating. Back in 1997, doctors had told him that he'd probably live 15 years, and however we added up the time, the math was unforgiving. You always hope new cures or medicines will be discovered, but even today there's little you can do about slow-growing cancer that is wandering your body. At Thanksgiving in 2009, we received news of spots in his lungs, adding to the cancer we knew was now in his legs. By the end of 2009, my dad was a young sixty-seven, except he was beginning to limp.

In 2010, I made sure to see him every month, even if just for a weekend. He was easy to see. He was easy-going, humorous, respectful, optimistic (if cynical about government his last several years), and interested in many topics. He loved to travel, and had visited Alaska, Brazil, Costa Rica, Greece, France, Florida, D.C., the Caribbean and other places the last handful of years, always bringing home new stories. One of my favorites (shared by my mother) was how he'd buy things in countries with lesser means: "How much would you like for that hat?" he'd ask a vendor. "$10," the person would respond. "$10!" My dad would say. "I'll give you $12." And he'd make the transaction.

By October 2010, it was time to start chemotherapy. He and my mother had pushed his luck far enough, hoping to get as much out of life as possible before beginning a chemo regiment that, once started, couldn't be stopped but intermittently. I headed home a few days after he started treatment, just to be there as support. Unfortunately, those days became a turning point, because my dad became paralyzed, and doctors discovered that cancer had grown on his spinal cord. He nearly didn't emerge from two emergency surgeries that stretched eighteen hours, but when he did, he was bright eyed, clear headed, and ready to talk. We had the invaluable gift of conversation. Leaving a few days later wasn't easy with him immovable in intensive care, but I vowed to return every few weeks, and did, for the next six months.

During those months, my dad moved to a rehab center and willed himself to get to his feet for a few minutes at a time, with support, and even took a few steps each week in physical therapy, striving to re-grow the damaged nerves in his body. During an especially cold Chicago winter, we moved him back home for nearly three months, downstairs by the fireplace, and celebrated his birthday there. He was as optimistic and well-spirited as someone could be under the circumstances. Perhaps he was trying to live true to the email sign-off he had been using the last few years, simply: "Enjoy the Moment."

I do not believe those months could have been much better than they were. We were with him during his last days and hours, too, and they were as good as they could have been, until he quietly passed away on April 5.

Words to Live By

We all face such losses in life – the longer we live, the more likely they'll arrive. Although hard, acceptance of this fact ultimately makes life richer. And recognizing the losses we face makes finances important only because you probably don't want your main focus during your time here to be money. You want your finances to be sensible, sustainable, provide for you and your family, and not worry you much (some worry is hard-wired in all of us). Period. My dad admired the Fool, but not because he was interested in finance (as a civil engineer, investing wasn't his forte, but he knew enough to save and invest on autopilot). He admired the Fool because he believed the company wanted to help people improve their lives. That's it. That's everything.

When we were in college, my dad gave my three siblings and me nearly 20 pages of quotations that he had compiled over his lifetime. Of course he liked them, because most of them were written by him. Here are a few of my favorites that can relate to life, investing, and business:


• "The Way" doesn't exist – your way or my way exists – but not "The Way" to do something.

• The hallmark of Maturity is patience – the proof of Maturity is self control.

• A high standard of Personal Ethics is your most important attribute. It will carry you throughout life.


And…


• We tend to become as joyful as our generosity.

• Remember to be gracious with people, but serious about time.

• The greatest priority in life is to enjoy it. Those people that do this are neither selfish nor a burden to anyone.


I'm dedicating the rest of my investing career to my dad, Dennis Fischer. Starting off on the right foot, I want to say thank you again – thank you for being a part of Pro, for putting your trust in the service, and for all of your kind wishes on this board this spring. We will keep moving forward as a team, knowing that strong finances provide all of us with extra freedom, and freedom feeds life.

Thank you to my Dad.

Jeff
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