I celebrate yet another Father's Day without my Dad. I thought today I would write about the ten things that made Daddy so awesome, things that I try my best to duplicate with my children, with my wife, and hopefully by doing so I can live up to the legend that was my Dad.
My Dad never attended college, worked hard with his big calloused hands for everything that he had, was from a farming family, grew up poor, and did his best. In no way was he perfect, but the 10 things listed below are some things you could do to make your family that much stronger.
Here we go.
- Don't Call Me Father - This is first on the list because it is most important. My Dad loved Jesus, but wasn't a Jesus freak. He was honest about his faith, quiet about it, but showed more through what he did for others than what he could ever say with words (and often didn't). He was the first one to show up at the hospital when someone was sick (even before the pastor) and would quietly pray and hold people's hand, not saying a word, just loving. He would get onto me for calling him "Father" because he said there is only one "Father", and that is God. He told me to call him Daddy. The point is, that God was very important to him, and loving people like Jesus loved them was also important, with common sense, wisdom and grace.
- Your Mother Is the Queen - Dad treated my mother with absolute respect. She was the queen of our home, and we were to never disrespect her or cause her shame. Dad taught me (not through words, but actions) that I should always love my wife and quietly see her as beautiful, wonderful and forever royal. It was a chivalrous love, a pure and simple love. I suppose it didn't work for the few girlfriends I had as a young man because they just weren't the right girls. I had to find a woman for it to work. My wife is one of those women, one of those ladies. The rest were just girls.
- Discipline Is Important - Growing up our main form of discipline was corporal. It was all my Dad knew because he grew up in the '40's and '50's before Dr. Spock came along and thoroughly ruined the world. It was never done in anger even though I perceived it sometimes as such. The truth is that is hurt my Dad to have to resort to spankings. He knew that if he didn't and instead sat us in a corner or gave us another more passive form of discipline that he would simply be training us for prison. If you don't believe me, then you can either read this awesome book about raising children from two clinical psychologists, or just do what you think is best. This form of discipline can be abuse, but in my home it never was. It was always performed with explanation, love, and I always got a hug afterward that lasted as long as I wanted, and I understood why I deserved it. However, grace was always there in my Dad's heart. He forgave, and I'm the better for it. Mark Twain said it best: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
- Always Do A Good Job - Dad was a hard worker, but his hard work would put most people to shame. This view went hand in hand with #3 on this list in that a good worker was a disciplined worker and the "hardness" of the work was what made one a stronger person. We had a wood burning stove at home that we used in the winter time for heat, and Dad would always spend weekends gathering about nine ricks of wood (a rick is a 4' x 8' stack) to get us through it. We cut a lot of trees out of brush piles that dozers would clear, hauled a lot of wood home, and split the large stuff. There was always yard work to do, and we would come home from church on Sunday and Dad would stop to pull weeds in the yard before coming in to eat lunch. He did most things by hand (even when I would come up with easier ways to do things) but I think that it was because he had always done things the hard way. It was about discipline with him. I don't think we need to do things the hard way, but if we have a mindset of good discipline with our work, we will be that much better at our jobs. If you never slack, you don't have to worry about your boss seeing you do that, and you get the rewards that come with it. Nobody ever called my Dad lazy because it was like calling rain dry.
- Sacrifice - I was one of the first people in my family to graduate from college. I reached that goal because my Dad made many sacrifices. We also had a great childhood because my Dad went without to make sure we had nice clothes, food in our bellies and a roof over our head. I can remember some meager meals, but we always had plenty to eat. I never went without on Christmas or on birthdays, and my Dad would attend everything that I did in school. He read all of my short stories, even if he didn't like that I was writing horror in high school. I could always count on my Dad to be there for me, support me in my endeavors, and give me encouragement when I needed it. He even showed up to the Christmas parade (as pictured above) to see me walk down the street in my Empire Strikes Back Boba Fett costume, and he never was a sci-fi fan.
- Laughter Is the Best Medicine - Dad had a signature laugh. It was kind of an ironic "heh-heh-heh" and it was always genuine. I remember riding with him to the coffee shop or on trips to southern Oklahoma where he grew up for fishing or hunting and he would imitate Ferlin Husky's performances from days gone by. He would tell jokes I had heard him tell again and again. He had a particular sense of humor that was straight forward and simple. He was not simple minded by any stretch of the imagination, but his humor was kind of primal, something one would laugh about while sitting on a porch in the country. He always laughed at things because his life was full of such hard work and seriousness. I learned that it is best to laugh at people's "drama" because mostly it not worth getting upset about. That's just life. Hard things happen. It's important to keep a positive attitude.
- Sometimes People Just Need Silence - If there is one ability my Dad possessed that I wish I had it would be to silently listen to people. Dad could sit quietly while someone confided in him and not say a word, but through facial expressions and a nod here and there he could let someone vent their frustration or communicate their grief in a way that made them feel better after visiting with him. Dad was a fantastic listener once he focused in, and later in life he would cup his hand around his ear as he became hard of hearing. Dad was one of those people who would listen to every person speak, wait a few minutes, then say something so profound and wise that the rest of the group had to rethink what they were going to do.
- Comfort Others - As stated before, Dad was always first to the hospital to visit the sick, and often would be there before the pastor had a chance to stop by. His routine was simple: he would enter the room after knocking and asking for entrance, ask how they are doing, then sit by their bedside and pray with them silently, then he would leave to let them rest. I remember many times as a young man when I needed comfort my Dad was there to put his arm around me and just sit quietly while I vented. When my son was born at 23 1/2 weeks he was the one who held my hand and prayed silently with me, sat with me as long as I needed, visited my son in the hospital after spending two minutes washing his hands. Dad had a gift in the area of making others feel great no matter the circumstances, and he did it through his actions.
- Appreciate the Simple Things - Dad's routine after retirement (28 years at Western Electric/Ma Bell/Lucent) was to rise early, go to the coffee shop, have breakfast, trap some gophers for clients ($20 if he caught one, and he always did) back to the coffee shop, trap more gophers, then visit the sick, then coffee shop, then home. Dad's favorite music (when he listened to it) was Hank Williams Sr, Ferlin Husky, Marty Robbins, Porter Wagoner, Slim Whitman and Patsy Cline. He loved to shoot his Ruger .22 revolver (mostly at turtles and snakes in ponds while I fished). He enjoyed his grandkids who would talk to him incessantly while he listened quietly. He was such a technophobe that he would often have me dial a number for him when he needed to make a call. He had one of the first cell phones (the big brick), and eventually graduated to a more modern blackberry, but texting was beyond him, and his call list was short. He believed that simplicity was best, that the quickest route between "A" and "B" was a straight line, and that if you don't have time to spend quality time with people "visiting" then you're a fool.
- Do It Yourself - I don't think my Dad took any of his vehicles in for any type of maintenance until he became too infirm to do it himself. We did not have a garage (or pavement for that matter) which meant that he did all the maintenance on his vehicles in our front yard. He'd buy a Hayne's manual for every car we had and would figure out what he needed, would borrow tools or buy them, and he'd get it done. He bought a 1980 Honda Accord brand new, and when he traded it in for a Toyota pickup it had 350,000 miles on it and still ran nearly as good as it did when he bought it. He saved money doing most jobs himself from home repair to plumbing to electrical work, and would get a book to show him how to do it if he didn't have the knowledge. This is something I inherited from him and it is what causes me to blog, to complete novel after novel, to do my own car maintenance (I'm replacing the timing belt and water pump next week) and it has saved me tons of money.
I miss my Dad. He was always there to give advice or to just listen. I'd give anything to be able to sit with him and just talk about good country music or politics or just anything at all. If your Dad is still living, don't take him for granted. If you have some issues with him or maybe you haven't talked to him in a while, then take a step toward healing and go talk to him today. One day you won't be able to.