Lessons From My Father


My Dad’s not here any more. I tried really hard not to think much about Father’s Day, aside from what the boy and I did for my husband.

But the boy was having none of it. After months of not mentioning my Dad, yesterday he floored me with, “I miss when Grampa was alive and him and Grammy used to take care of me instead of the babysitter.”

Ouch. I rolled with it, but it reminded me of how much I miss my Dad.

And the kid kept going with it, 3 more times yesterday he chatted up about missing my Dad.

One of the things he said got me thinking about all of the things my father taught me.

How to make pancakes without burning one side. In life over all, this taught me that some things have to be watched carefully, or you’ll miss the signs that it is time for a change.

How to make peanut butter fudge. This taught me that some things come out best if, once you begin, you carry a task through to the end without distraction.

How to change a tire and jumpstart a car. And after breaking down at 2 AM in an off-season tourist town, I understood that the lesson here was not to rely on others for rescue, because sometimes there is nobody there, but me.

He taught me how to use a square, a level and a skill saw. And the obvious lesson here was measure twice and cut once. This one, I still struggle with.

He taught me the importance of a right angle in building, and a 45 degree angle in joining. This taught me the importance of a solid foundation for everything.

He taught me how to use tools designed for right-handed people with my left hand. With this, he taught me that when the world is not laid out as I need it to be, that I have to work with what I’ve got.

When my first wedding date was postponed, then the second one was, then the third one went off mid-hurricaine and I walked down the aisle drenched, in a dirty dress, he told me I was going to have a story instead of merely a wedding. And I learned about perspective in life.

When he held my son, the world closed down and it became clear that love can alter reality.

When he was diagnosed with Cancer, and chose not to have treatment, my heart broke and I learned that now and then you have to make the best decisions for yourself, because in some things, you are utterly alone.

As he was dying, he held my mother’s hand in a private hospital room. The private room was arranged for free by the hospital because the number of people that wanted to be with him was too big to accommodate in a regular room.

And the crowd grew. Family, of course, but also friends, co-workers from years before, people I didn’t even know, all telling stories, reminiscing about the times they had with my father.

Later, at the funeral, where there was standing room only at the church, people spilling out the door into the chilly February air, he taught me my final lesson.

How you treat people matters.

Because most of us don’t get statues constructed, or memorials dedicated, or books penned about us. For most of us, our legacy comes down to how we are reflected in the memory of others.

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7 thoughts on “Lessons From My Father

  1. Floored is the perfect word for how I feel right now. You are such a beautiful writer! Your soul shines through….ah, your dad did good. xo

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    • Aww, thanks Gina. My Dad was something else. I’m always surprised when I find a comment from someone I know – there are only about a half dozen of you that even know that I do this! Even hubs doesn’t know. I’m such a coward, my real name wasn’t even up here until last Fall.

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  2. Pingback: Living with an angry bird – Natalie Hartford

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