Since my Father so unexpectedly passed away I've been contemplating all of what he meant to me and along with it why he meant so much to so many. He was not just my Dad, but my business partner for the last 30 years, my confidant, my best friend, and most importantly my main role model as I navigate my way through life.
Since his passing, so many people have told me how important my dad was to them. People always describe him the same way: smart, confident, sensitive, with a knack for making everybody he came in contact with feel important and valued.
For those of you who know me, you know that I absolutely love to ski. (a sport that I grew up learning with my Dad.) Over the years I've come to understand that a big reason that I love skiing, is the way it forces me to be in the moment. It is one of the only things I do that while I'm doing it I can't think of anything else. For me it's an interesting phenomena-- terrain becomes clearer, time seems to move slower, I see subtle differences in snow texture. In the moments that I'm on the steepest pitches, my thoughts always seem to me to be pure, the decisions I make have very immediate cause and effect, and in a strange way I always feel sheltered by the mountain.
My father had that magical ability to focus and be present in almost any situation and on a daily basis. When I (or for that matter anyone) talked with him or worked with him, he was always engaged, and consistently present in the moment. I think his thoughtfulness was rooted in that ability to focus. I know he had as many distractions in his life as I have in mine, yet with him, those obstacles were somehow left behind while he thought about and analyzed the situation at hand. I think so many of my Dad's interactions were like a beautiful ski run, his intense focus allowed him to analyze problems and people in a clear thoughtful way. Creative thoughts and solutions to difficult problems almost always came to him through his ability to think through what the heart of the issue is. Whether he was listening to his own family, his Topper family, or his friends, discussions with him were always focused and detailed and solution-oriented. It didn't matter whether you were talking about work, politics, personal matters, school, or any subject---no matter what was going on my dad always made time to listen and talk things through and do his best to help out.
In the same way that the mountain sheltered me, my Dad provided unconditional 24/7 shelter. As I live the next chapter of my life, the one without my Dad, I hope that I can continue to grow and someday be as patient, kind, and as present as he was in his daily life.
Russ Caplan (son)