My dad was an “Archie Bunker” kind of dad. Any baby boomer knows what that means. His word was law. He spoke, we jumped. And frankly, I was kind of scared of him. He mellowed as he grew older. And even though he was challenging while we were growing up, he was our biggest cheerleader as young adults.
He was often sitting at the kitchen counter when I came home for a visit, a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He would raise his big hand and say, “Hi Hon”, with a great big smile on his face and a sparkle in his eyes. I loved that he was glad to see me. I like that memory. He’s been on my mind lately. He’s been gone 25 years; he died too young… on his 57th birthday… and I don’t feel like he ever got to really know me.
Thinking about my dad, and reflecting on some childhood memories, I began to recall some of the things he said. I asked my husband about his father, and he too, shared some lessons from his dad. I asked other family members, ‘what did you learn from your dad?’, and the emails started arriving in my inbox. As expected, with many dads and granddads referenced, some memories were meaningful while others were a bit humorous; some a little sad while others joyful. But to be honest, we are a lucky bunch: For the most part, we had dads who loved God and family, and that is conveyed in the remarks made by their offspring. So here is a running list of some of the “lessons learned from Dad”. The memories and quotes are not all mine; they are from various family members, and in no particular order. I hope it makes you smile.
When pride allows you to turn down a gift, you have robbed the giver of the bigger blessing.
Life isn’t always easy.
Your work reflects who you are.
Your work reflects on our family.
You cannot be a model because you are too short and your boobs are too big. (That may sound harsh, but it actually can save you from years of starvation and make you depend on your brain. And to be clear, this was not my memory)
This is what you wanted — there will be NO complaining about it.
Good hard work never killed anyone.
Your muscles are meant to be put to good use.
Do not do what you FEEL like doing, do what you believe is RIGHT.
I would never ask you to do something that I would not do myself.
If you want to plant straight rows, always look far ahead — not right in front of you. (this has many applications for success)
Be smart, work hard, and take care of your things.
My Dad was a hunter, and he taught me how to skin squirrels and rabbits. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to skin one lately, it does make for good conversation at parties. My daughter was also admired by teacher and classmate alike when she told them her Mom could skin a squirrel!
Be quietly generous.
If you’re not a swearing man, dadgumit, what the hen?, and crimenetly…. all work.
If you are a swearing man, well…. you know…
Words have the power to stay forever. (You never know which words are the words that will live forever in someone’s memory…. make sure they are good words.)
My dad didn’t need to yell, for one lasered look over the top of a newspaper was all it took to stop the bickering amongst us kids.
Anything worth having is worth working for.
Don’t climb on the counter/cupboards. (No, really, don’t).
Don’t play in the car with the keys. And if you choose to, when the car begins to back down the driveway, run next door to Gramma’s like your brother does — before Dad comes out of the house!
One of the best memories I have of my father-in-law are words he whispered in my ear. Every time we were about to leave from a visit, Dad would hug me good-bye and say, ‘you’re such a great mother, you’re a good wife, I love you Hon’. I didn’t realize what a blessing that was until he was gone. It hit me hard on that first visit back home.
This is a short, fun list. I’m sure if I tarried, I could continue to add many more memories and lessons — good and bad. And even if the memory is bad, good lessons can be learned, if we are willing. Our dads impact us forever. I know my Dad left his mark on me. I love him and miss him more and more as I grow older. Wish I could share a cup of coffee with him now, and hear his sweet, “Hi Hon” again.
What lessons did you learn from your dad?