At that time, I learned responsibility and accountability. How my actions can affect others. Most importantly, I realized that a grown man cares, and more than anything else, I didn’t want to disappoint him again. What I didn’t realize until years later, this budding relationship was based on trust, faith, honesty, loyalty and unconditional love: the most powerful forces in the world.

In my last year, I was among the best long distance runners in the country and we had become inseparable. He was not only my coach, but also a father and advisor, and had the wisdom to turn down many sports scholarships on my behalf. His advice: go for the best education. It was at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school (they don’t offer any athletic scholarships). Four years later, he also advised me to try my luck in medical school. I haven’t thought about it.

Our friendship has endured decades of slingshots and arrows of life. It has remained a constant. When he retired from teaching 17 years ago, I made a commitment to have lunch with him every Tuesday. And except for medical emergencies or travel, that’s what we did. Over the past few months, his declining health has caused some hiccups in our schedule, and now dusk is approaching.

I am writing this praise for Coach Sweet, my longtime friend and mentor. In a broader sense, I am writing this for any father or father figure. You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect father. The traits he exhibited have everything to do with character and are qualities that we can all attain.

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