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Recognizing Duffy's Unapologetic Style as a Resource




My dad, Duffy Carduff, would have been 77 on May 15, but he left this world last December. He was 76. This was definitely longer than he expected to live, which softened the blow, but it was still a direct hit that created an open wound. It was unavoidable. We are never the same after losing people who have had influence and meaning in our lives, even in the best circumstances. I miss him every single day, but I am learning that the conversations I have had with him for 55 years continue to be an invaluable resource in my life–especially the ones that were more difficult to navigate. Over time, it taught me to have respect for others’ opinions, even when I don’t agree with them. It might take a little time to get there, but it’s worth the extra effort - if only for my own sanity!


Duffy’s health was miraculous, overall. I'm fully convinced that his heart, lungs, and breathing were largely sustained by his desire to keep hanging out with his family and friends during his last few years. It was always incredible to me that he ate, drank and smoked whatever he wanted for most of his life, at very little cost. At least not until the very end, when the effects of congestive heart failure became a factor. None of it surprised him. He understood the potential outcomes of his choices, but he valued fun, joy, and a good time. Sometimes at the cost of safety, or good judgement, or consideration of consequences. He did what he wanted, and then he would use those examples from his own life to demonstrate his point.


Duffy was a person who lived life with very few apologies and zero regrets. He appreciated each moment in time and space for what it was, which naturally ensured that he would always find something to enjoy along the way — and as far as I can tell, he did that thoroughly. He liked to wryly suggest that he was on borrowed time; often posing the question, “how many six-foot-four, 350 pound guys do you see walking around in their seventies?” For a lot of people, it wasn’t easy to tell whether or not he was serious. For the most part, he was seriously joking.


He had a way of saying things with an imperceptible wink in his eye. If you weren’t really listening to him, you often missed the underlying humor, which was nearly always present. There wasn’t a visible tell, but if you knew his style, you understood that it was fun to lean in when he was baiting a conversation, because things were about to get good. He loved to point out threads of hypocrisy and absurdity, and his timing was fantastically understated. Above all else, my dad understood that life was a mystery and that the only way to truly ‘win’  was to appreciate every single second of it – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. All of our raw material, all together. He even taught his parrot to whistle the theme song to that old Spaghetti Western! It means more now than ever!


Duffy Carduff was nothing if not intentional. He didn’t move without purpose, and even then it wasn’t until he was good and ready. According to Duffy, finishing a chapter, completing a thought, and/or watching the end of an inning or a possession, were all solid reasons to postpone whatever was pressing (work, school, church, bedtime, etc). This wasn’t something he had cultivated along his way– it was a part of who he was every single day. As I consider all of the great things he taught me, I realize that this one stands out now because its widespread use could and would provide lasting universal benefits. Duffyism: “You’ve got to want it…”


It’s not lost on me that if we all took a page or two from (this part of) his book, we could find ourselves thriving as individuals (and probably killing it, collectively, too!). Simplicity is often hard to intellectualize. Some days, it is still a challenge for me to stay present in gratitude, even though I know how much it helps me. When I allow myself to be humbled by my own humanity, I am suddenly able to handle whatever feelings rocked my foundation in the first place. Quite simply, it forces a breakdown of the bullshit so that the beauty can shine through, too – in Wholeness. That combination organically supports us creatively, which provides us with increasing clarity and infinite opportunities for personal and collective growth. 


By nearly all accounts, Duffy was a stubborn human being. Still, he would absolutely change his mind about a thing when presented with compelling facts or evidence. If you didn’t recognize how easy it was to talk to him, you didn’t get to see the poignant humor and collective understanding that were at the root of his comments. There was no official test (that he shared with me) for being allowed behind the curtain, but listening skills and a quest for humor played a big role. My teenage years definitely pushed me far outside his circle of trust for a hot second, but time has shown me, in no uncertain terms, exactly why that was necessary. He seemed to understand it, inherently, the way wise parents do. Which granted him the patience he would need to be my parent. 


As he moved from polite conversation to objective analysis with close friends and acquaintances, he dropped any lingering pretense. He spoke freely, without fear of being taken out of context. He asked questions without concern that he could hurt someone’s feelings. He stated things in ways that perhaps weren’t politically correct, but were wholly authentic in expression. To my knowledge, they never stopped traffic or made things uncomfortable, but they were definitely edgy. Frequently, they drove the larger conversation because of their deeply rooted truths. He liked to make people think differently. His genuine interest in each personality provided a warmth that kept emotions in check, even when whatever he said could have gone sideways. He never intended to harm. Period. But it could feel that way if you didn’t know better. Duffyism: “Don’t be an asshole.”


He loved to point out paradox and hypocrisy, while also being some degree of that himself. That might be the only awareness that kind of escaped him, but I’m going to give him a lot of grace here. He was born in 1947. For a boomer, he was a lot more than okay. He was real. He was whole. And that is saying a lot in a world where we are so divided, quick to judge, full of fear, and unsure who we can trust. If he were here to ask, he would assure anyone and everyone in his vicinity that you actually can’t trust anyone (especially politicians or lawyers). I have always known this statement to be a conversation-starter for him, not a hard and fast belief. Some of his best friends were lawyers, and he trusted my mom implicitly, so…. I know his point had more to do with abuse of power. And exploitation. And lack of intention. 


At his Celebration of Life, Camille Varghese, my best friend since age 12 and frequent recipient of Duffy’s wit and wisdom, phrased it perfectly when she said: “Duffy and I existed in the perfect Venn Diagram of ‘can dish it out’ and ‘can take it’. He brought to life a rare and precious combination that has made my life infinitely more joyful and exciting, and probably had the same effect on all of the other people who got to hang out behind that tie-dyed curtain with him, too. It’s hard to deny the allure of a person who shows up as themselves, all day, every day. They will eventually capture your heart. Or feel sorry for you.


That's exactly who he was, and it often seemed like the only real requirement to gaining his respect was to see his broader intentions. His favorite people possessed a wicked sense of humor and an ability to playfully finesse thoughts and words, while also attempting to make a heart connection. He identified and collected as many of them as he could throughout his life. To be clear, he wasn’t for everyone, but who is? Duffy’s brand of stark openness can be scary to people who feel the need to hide parts of who they are. But it seemed like, given enough time, he could win anyone over - even if their fears made them keep him at arm’s length and look at him sideways!


Duffy could and would have been canceled a thousand times over (maybe more) during the course of his tenure on earth, but instead he flew right under the radar – perfectly timed – checking out before he was ever made to feel unwelcome.  Show of hands: Who all knows what MBF stands for? (feel free to email me your story about hearing it for the first time!). Historically, the idea of ‘leading with your heart’ has become battered, bruised and buried in our judgemental environment. It’s brutal out here! Even humor is struggling to find its good leg. We have never been further apart about what should be considered funny, and what has been taken too far. Duffyism: Republicans and Democrats? I hate all of them!


The truth is, I don’t think he ever hated anyone. Disappointed? for sure. Confused by their behavior? All the freaking time! But he was generally accepting of who people were at their core. He was insightful about what he could change and what he couldn’t. He was a creative thinker, and he drew wisdom and knowledge from the countless books he read. Like me, he was drawn to characters, and so many of them came to life in his imagination – like old friends. He was the same way with treasured songs – absorbing all of the tone and feeling he could from each character and their story.


As a family, we have always shared a love of music (and its history). This, along with his sense of humor, remained intact through his final day. He had been a long time ‘hater’ of Led Zeppelin because the one time he went to their show Jimmy Page threw up on stage and they didn’t play. He’s always held a grudge against the whole band, even though you could catch him singing along to them if he didn’t realize what he was doing. He was hilariously frustrated whenever he’d realize he was grooving along with them…


As the ICU staff was making arrangements to make him comfortable while he made the transition from life, I was looking up this day in music history. I thought he’d like to know the company he was about to join, and I almost laughed out loud when I learned that Led Zeppelin had broken up exactly 43 years earlier, on December 4, 1980. (the same year he married my mom). When I told him about Led Zeppelin, he paused for effect, nodded his head, and said “Good.” As awful as that moment was for us personally, we couldn’t help but laugh out loud at his comment. And I’m sure he loved that.


I  was lucky enough to get to see my dad pretty much every day for the six weeks he spent in the hospital before he died. His thoughts and beliefs remained open and engaging, and we were all able to talk with him about anything and everything we could think of while we had this time with him. He chose my oldest daughter’s 35th birthday to say he was ready to go. He fought hard to stick around, so he knew when it was time to let go, and he was able to let us know that in no uncertain terms. We were incredibly blessed by this. As much as we would have loved to prolong his life, we all respected his choice, and he passed away with his family by his side, to the song “Time” by Pink Floyd, at 4:20pm. He got to do it his way, and I feel like that was the reward the universe afforded him for being such a strong example of living with authenticity!


I’ve been trying to finish the last few pieces of this blog ever since his birthday, but I’m finding it hard to feel like I’ve made my point:  that operating with respect for our personal values is integral to the strength of our self-esteem and self-confidence. How we show up in our own company is infinitely more important than how we project ourselves in front of others. Duffy Carduff was an expert at being himself, whether he was alone or in a crowd. Professionally, I offer guidance on ways to be more authentic, overall, and I use a lot of what I learned from my dad. Simple consideration and kindness to anyone and everyone (including ourselves) will always give us an advantage because it lays the groundwork for caring. And caring grows our connections beyond our wildest dreams.


4 Comments


Tavish, I think you captured the essence of Duffy perfectly in this blog!

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This was an amazing read! He was the best!

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Amazing words to celebrate a truly amazing man. Thank you for your gift that you are sharing.

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So beautifullly said, Tavish! Duffy was a gift…that we all cherished. Big hugs

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