It’s Father’s Day weekend. Tomorrow I’ll join my brother and spend a ‘Day of Labor’ at my dad’s (this is now his favorite gift, as opposed to something from the store.)
The writing below is part of what I gave my dad last year (along with the work in the yard!) It’s lengthy, but I opted to paste it all rather than edit it.
Lessons I’ve Learned from My Father
As Father’s Day approached, I thought a lot about gifts to give, but more often I found myself thinking about what my Dad had given me. Unconditional love, unwavering support, and an inconceivable amount of lessons (to say the least—yet largest). Many of which are simple yet profound things that have shaped my life, and who I am. Things I have carried with me through my life that I hope to pass along one day.
I decided to compile a list of stand outs, ‘Greatest Hits’ if you will. It includes stand-bys, and maybe a few surprises, but just like any selection its impossible to include every single great thing…there’s just too much.
“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
— Clarence Budington Kelland
- REALLY enjoy the music. I don’t remember silly kid songs from my childhood. I was blessed with artists like B.B. King, James Taylor, Paul Simon and Jimmy Buffett. While both parents liked the artists, I specifically remember how my dad would listen. Sometimes it was as small a gesture as mimicking trumpet scores, other times it was a full body jerk led by the head shoulders and arms that resembles a Joe Cocker/Ray Charles style move. He would point in the air at the parts he liked. And after CD’s became popular I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard ‘Oh listen again!’ and a certain part would be cued up. Without knowing it he taught me: If you’re going to listen to music, and REALLY enjoy it, put your body heart and soul into it.
And if you aren’t moving at all…find something else.
- When talking to someone, Listen. Growing up I would swear that my dad would make tiny notes about his patrons’ lives while talking to them (recent trips, names, etc.) It wasn’t true of course. Instead, he just really listened to them. As busy as the drug store would be when he was speaking to a person they had his attention and concern. And you could tell it comforted them. Drugs take care of the bodies, my dad always tries to take care of the people.
- Have a tool set in the house and jumper cables in the car.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First off it’s just good common sense. There is a feminist ‘We can do it!’ quality but I believe that came from my mother. Where my dad comes in are two parts. The first: You may not use them often, but when you need them you’ll be glad you have them. And the second: A person needs to be well rounded and capable. To know how and when to take care of something, and to be able to identify when it’s time to call in the pros.
- Have a Hobby. Hobbies are special. They’re a gift of something you love that can take away stress and simultaneously give a sense of accomplishment. While gardening is the go-to thought, I can’t think of a time when my dad Didn’t have a hobby. Photography, Building things, Fish (inside and out) and yes…the yards. Not only does a hobby come with mental benefits, it makes someone a more interesting individual overall. The only minute downside is that a hobby is often misunderstood because there’s not a way for someone to understand Why it’s so special; It just is.
- Take Time to Notice the World Around You. I used to make fun of my dad on trips. Actually all of us did. Suddenly we’d notice our group was missing a member, and the first place to look was about 10 feet behind us. We knew where he was. He’d stopped to take a picture. Whether the photos ended up as snapshots, or composed pieces each was a frozen moment of time, and you could tell it was very important. Neither one of us is a huge fan of overly posed pictures…instead we want to capture life as it happens
- When faced with a decision or problem, put pen to paper. Seeing things visually makes sense. It’s logical. If it’s right there in front of you, you can’t argue with it. Whether it’s the pros and cons of a big decision, or doing the math and finding out if an offer will save you money or not. Drawing a diagram helps everyone to be on the same page mentally/visually and those help too (and everyone knows the benefits of sketching a map!)
- If you fall on your face, learn something from it. We’re all human. Everyone is going to make mistakes. My dad made sure of two things, first that we didn’t wallow in embarrassment or self-pity, and second that we learned something. If you’re that embarrassed you’ve at least learned how not to land in that situation again. You can’t take it back, but you can be more prepared when you move forward. And life is always moving forward.
- Be prepared for those who will doubt you. The phrases “because I want to/it” and “all of my friends do” didn’t get you very far in my house. But typically if you could explain a rational reason why the outcome would be better. My father plays the role of Devil’s Advocate better than anyone I know. As children it was called ‘mean’ or ‘unfair’ now I see it was a way of protection. For children not to expect hand-outs but be prepared with rationality. And to also know that if your own Dad asks you ‘Why?” then you better bet a stranger or a boss or countless other people will.
- Take Notes and Keep Records. No one can remember chapter and verse what a person says, but if you can look it up you’ll save yourself time and grief. The biggest example of why this is important is when dealing with hospitals and insurance companies, but there are a multitude of other reasons. I’ve long kept accordion files with contracts, leases, statements and other items. In email boxes items are flagged and sorted into folders that could be called up readily. If I hadn’t watched my dad quickly reference files or items, I wouldn’t understand. I realized early that tedious note-taking and filing was self-protection, and a way to stay informed, and to quickly solve problems. I’ll admit, this behavior, while obviously beneficial, could have lead to another trait my father has—the tendency to be a pack rat because “You may need it one day”
- When you decide to settle down, never ever settle. I have high standards. I didn’t learn them from my mom; I learned them from my dad. He set an example of what to look for when seeking a partner, and I grew up in the best example of a relationship I have ever known. As a girl growing up it was priceless to have such a great exa
- mple right in front of me. When I was young, I was occasionally told ‘Your parents have the best marriage” or “Your parents are like a fairy tale” I found it odd then. I thought ‘Isn’t this how it should be?” The answer is yes, but the reality is that few end up being that special. I don’t know why, but I do know this: My mother taught me how I should be in a relationship. My father set the bar for what to expect.