Today is one of those bad anniversaries - the kind that make you a little off all day, even if the "thing" happened a long time ago. In memory of my dad, I'm re-posting my Father's Day blog.
Original post date: Sunday, June 19, 2016 - I didn’t get many years with my dad and I regret not getting to know him as an adult. I think we would have been great friends, had lively debates and worked on many projects together, both business and otherwise. I’m often told by relatives and people who knew him well, that I’m a lot like him – not always sure if it’s a critique or a compliment, but that’s okay. The older I get, the more I’m aware of what I took away from our short relationship. Without realizing it at the time, every stage of my life has been guided by many of the simple lessons he taught me. And it continues today. So while there are lots of shrinks, professors, websites and organizations out there aimed at helping us be better people, I’ll just keep trying to “hear” my dad give me direction from the other side and follow his lead.
Don’t half-ass. I vividly remember being sent back to many tasks that I had been given and told that I hadn’t done a good enough job. No big speeches. Just “go do it again, better.” I’d grumble (on the inside) but I got it. My own kids have been told the same thing since they were old enough to walk. They were also told that “half-ass” was not a word that required a quarter in the swear jar because there is no other term in the English language that can be used instead.
Give back and help those who are less fortunate. Long before they were official terms, my dad was a mentor and “big brother.” One summer, he went and picked up a local kid who didn’t have much as far as a home life or money and brought him to our house a few days a week. I think he had met him when he was working on a house in a not-so-great section of town. His name was Bill, he was 11 or 12 and he just hung out, swam in the lake with us, helped with chores and projects and went on a few of our family outings. My dad didn’t feel the need to explain it to others or tell anyone that he was being charitable. I actually don’t even know if Bill’s family okay’d it. He just did it because he wanted a kid to enjoy what his own kids enjoyed and to teach him what he could about hard work and family. My parents would also discreetly find a family in need at the holidays, go shopping for them and a family friend would dress as Santa Clause to deliver the gifts and food on Christmas Eve. My dad didn’t believe in hand-outs to just anyone and thought that people should work hard for what they received. But he also believed that everyone needed a leg up at one time or another.
Have fun. When I was a kid, our house was always filled with friends and family, laughter and pranks, lots of food, drink and music, loud debates and conversation that went well into the night. Work had its place and there were many long days but importance was also placed on down time and enjoying life very simply.
Be kind. My dad treated strangers with the same honesty and compassion that he showed family and friends – this, to me, is true kindness. There was no version of him that was insincere or pretentious. He was as comfortable talking to the person waiting on him at a restaurant or pumping his gas as he was with a bank president or business owner. And he thought they all deserved to be treated the same.
Know that I love you, but you are not the only thing in my life. I always felt protected and loved and like my dad would put his life on the line for me. But he also taught me that his marriage, his work and his passions were a part of his life as well and that the universe didn’t revolve around me. This taught me both independence and humility. It taught me to give the same attention to my husband as I do my kids and to take time for myself even if that means missing part of a little league game or not being home room mom. His and my mother’s social lives did not revolve just around mine and my sibling’s activities and he made it clear that time with my mom was a high priority. He believed that a strong marriage was one of the best gifts that he could give his kids.
Eat what’s in front of you. There was no other option at dinner time. No alternative menu or substitutions. My mom was a great cook (although I didn't appreciate it until much later) and we ate what was for dinner. If it was organic, it was not intentional and nothing was gluten free or low sodium. It was just good food and you were to respect the time, money and effort that had gone into making and serving it. “No thank you” was what you said if you wanted to pass on having a particular food and a nasty face or an “I don’t like that” would get you sent to your room.
Happy Father’s Day to my dad and to my husband. I wish they could have met and I'm very blessed to have had two of the best people I've ever known be such a big part of my life.