Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. But I win. No competition. When the Head Dad up high was handing out fathers, I won. And I find myself this year at a loss to let my dad know how much I appreciate him, what a blessing he has been to me, to my younger brother before he died, and to all of the others in his life that he has “fathered.”
Well, that’s not entirely true, the “finding myself at a loss” part. Cause, you know, it’s me, and I’ve got stuff to say. But this year more than ever, I find myself full of emotion, appreciating my dad more now than ever before, at a time when based on the reality of human lifespans and forward motion of the calendar I have less time left with him than I’ve ever had before. Funny (NOT) how that works.
So, for my Dad, thank you.
Thank you for setting me straight and strong and true in this world. For never allowing me to seriously question if I was good enough. For making sure I valued who I had been created to be, and Who had created me. And I love you.
For the rest of you, allow me to share 10 lessons from my father. These aren’t a top ten, because he’s taught me far more than that. These are just the first ten that come to mind, in no particular order of importance. You’re welcome.
Ten Lessons From My Dad
10. “What kind of tree is that?” Life really is more interesting when you know what kind of tree that is. Since my parents were both teachers, we took a lot of long summer vacations when I was a kid, and several over Christmas breaks. Those trips were always peppered with my dad asking “What kind of tree is that?”, and with us kids and my mom rolling our eyes at him. When I was a kid, I Really. Didn’t. Care. But now I’m the one asking, and noticing, and appreciating the amazing little details of the natural world around me.
9. “Mom, come on……!!” Now my kids pull on MY elbow after church. As a child, the fellowship time over coffee and cookies was always torture for my brother and I, a frustrating attempt to get my extroverted dad to STOP TALKING ALREADY so we could go home. Now, it’s MY kids who are bugging me after church, trying to get me to leave, as I wander about my family of faith, touching base, catching up, and being love. He did it then, I try to do it now.
8. Keep loving your people, no matter how hard, no matter how inconvenient. This is a foundational part of my dad’s character, and it was deeply ingrained in my brother before he passed away, and I hope it is in me. Didn’t matter if it was my dad’s childhood friend, violent and angry from mental illness; or my dad’s extended family, tense with division and hurt feelings; or a close friend, broken by his own mistakes and misjudgements. If they allowed it, Dad stood by them, walked alongside them, spoke truth to them, and always, he loved them. (There has really been only one exception to this that I know of in my dad’s life, and it was not for lack of trying. But this tremendously broken person not only could not and did not change but was hurting innocents in the process. Walking away from that was an equally valuable lesson.)
7. Life is interesting and there is fun to be had. My dad has always been interested and engaged in the world around him, teaching courses, taking courses, learning new things and sharing that knowledge with excitement. Even now, as he has struggled with health issues and the loss of his home a year ago to a fire, he is still engaged in the world in a way that inspires me. He’s currently taking painting classes, tai chi and a brain health class! Go Dad! I want to grow up and be just like you!
6. Family isn’t just to whom you are born, it’s also to whom you are called. I have always had to share my folks, particularly my dad. It seemed like young people were and are (although my definition of young has, um broadened over the years) always coming to my dad for advice, for a listening ear, for perspective and occasionally for a strong kick in the pants. He has been a surrogate father for granddaughters, for students, for people who have sought him out for his wisdom, patience and love. Have I always enjoyed sharing him? Not really. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Keep your eyes on the road!!!! That may, in light of the other points, sound deep and philosophical, but it isn’t intended that way. In the midst of his zest for life, learning and new experiences, my childhood road trips were also full of one or more family members yelling “Dad! Eyes on the road!” as he allowed the steering wheel to drift towards whatever had caught his eye alongside the road. Still a good reminder for all of us.
4. Making gestures is important. My dad loves to give gifts and make gestures. There have been many throughout the years, all of them coming with the message that Dad loved us enough to take the extra time, the extra thought to make it special. The car I thought we were negotiating payments for me to make after college that he’d saved up for to buy me outright. The special earrings he wrapped and hid in the Christmas tree for my mom and I. (I will always hide gifts in the tree, it is now family tradition.) The romantic anniversary flowers and gifts for my mom, after 50 years of marriage. Gestures are important, because people are important.
3. Don’t research it to death. Do something, even if it’s wrong, so you can get on with enjoying your life. Case in point – several years ago, my husband and I (ok, mostly me) were in the market to buy our first barbecue grill, and I was armed with reviews, product specs, prices and comparison articles. I spent so much time researching “the best”, that I never got around to buying anything. One day, my dad showed up with a perfectly fine middle-of-the-road grill he’d bought for us. Was it the “best”? No. But we sure got to grilling on it, and enjoying our yard and our deck and each other. Classic Dad, and he was right.
2. Keep loving your people, even when it’s hard. Yep, this is basically a repeat of #8. But who likes a list of 9??? Not to mention, this one is the most important. Those extended family members who stopped talking to each other? He’s never stopped talking to any of them, updating them on how the other is, gently reminding them without words of the bond of family. He’s still hoping for reconciliation. (I’m hoping it doesn’t happen at his funeral. Seriously people, let bygones be bygones. Family feuds are a tragic waste of time.) Granddaughters who struggle with mental illness, with good choices, with loving behavior? He’s there, forgiving, loving and encouraging. And a daughter who is frequently overwhelmed, and frequently not quite as THERE for her folks as she’d like to be? Always patient, always forgiving, never guilt-tripping.
Yeah, this one’s the most important, because through my dad, I’ve gotten to know my Father.
1. Spoil your kids, even when they are far too old for it. By spoil, I mean surprise them by watching their small
monsters children so they can have a date night, or with the occasional cash encouragement and direction to treat themselves. Say, maybe when they are in the middle of a difficult season of tight finances, trying to be responsible adults and feeling deprived of small luxuries like tomato plants and flowers. Such small spoiling says “I love you, you will get through this rough patch, but don’t forget to enjoy life in the meantime.”
Tomatoes and flowers from my dad
Sorry dear readers, but really, I win Father’s Day.
I love you, Dad.