In June, we honor dads or the men in our children’s lives. This is one of the most important jobs a man can have, and the impact of a father on a son or daughter’s life is profound. I had a wonderful father for the first 16 years of my life. His sudden departure from a heart attack left my mom with five teenagers, one with special needs (no, not me), and her career was as a piano teacher from home and caring for her big family. It was hard, but we made it, and I truly feel that the impact my dad had on us when we were younger helped get us through the really tough times without him. Here are 16 things I learned from my dad in 16 short years.
- I learned that if you want something, work hard for it. My dad always had big dreams, and he worked hard to make his dreams happen.
- I learned to work with my hands. One of my dad’s big dreams was to build a log cabin on our property in Coeur D’ Alene. It took over a decade to happen, but in that time, we learned to make cement, build footings, frame walls, cut wood and logs, build reinforcement walls, make a plan, and the list goes on. He passed away just before it was finished.
- I learned to dream big. My dad was a dreamer, and he was a visionary. He loved technology (the little that existed back then) and often talked of the future where cars would drive themselves and TVs would hang on walls.
- I learned to appreciate the stars. My dad loved astronomy, and he spent many hours looking through a telescope and teaching me about the world outside of our planet.
- I learned to listen to people. My dad was a great listener. He rarely jumped to conclusions and had a true interest in what people had to say. He would come home and go to each of us and ask about our day, then he would listen. What a gift that is, especially when a man listens to his daughter and shows interest in her world.
- I learned about justice. One time, he saw me hit my best friend when I was way beyond the age of it being developmentally appropriate. He came out and told us both to come in, and he sat down and made us talk through it. He listened, and he meted out justice. I had to apologize, but in the long run, I kept my friend.
- I learned about forgiveness. My dad was one of the kindest people I know. He gave people the benefit of the doubt and forgave slights in a way that made him easy to be your friend.
- I learned about faith and tradition. We were raised Catholic, and no matter where we were, we always attended mass. One time he attended in his bright orange bathing suit because we didn’t have time for him to change his clothes, and he said, “God doesn’t care, He cares more if I’m not here.” The congregation evidently cared though, because the next week in the bulletin it said, “No bathing suits at church please.”
- I learned that education is crucial. We lived in Maryland and would drive to our cabin in Northern Idaho every summer. On these trips, we drove through Moscow, where both my parents went to college, and he would proclaim, “This is where you kids will go to school.” We’d pour out of the car, and walk around the gorgeous campus, and 3 out of 5 of us did go to school there.
- I learned how to drive. My dad LOVED driving a car, in fact, he loved cars. He was an engineer that built dams for a living but was passionate about engines and vehicles. We had six vehicles at times which we didn’t realize the neighbors hated until my sister told her friend’s mom that my dad bought my mom a new car, and she proclaimed, “Is it another junker?”
- I learned to take time to travel. My dad took five weeks off every summer, and we drove out to Idaho, a 2,500 mile trip in a station wagon with seven people and two dogs. My parents made these the best memories of our lives. The getting there was equally as much fun as being there.
- I learned the importance of eating dinner together. My dad and mom insisted that we eat dinner together, even when we had jobs, homework, school, and practice. We still had dinner together almost every night, and when he passed away it was the thing I missed most.
- I learned to love music. My mom was the official musician yet my dad was a piano player too who loved to improvise. He would begin a song, and I would recognize it, then he’d go off on some tangent and create his own version of it. It was always hard to sing along, but we laughed a lot about it. We all played an instrument, and some of my favorite memories are of us as a band.
- I learned to hope. In Maryland, we rarely had snow. One Christmas Eve, I was pretty sad about it, and he told me not to lose hope. That night about 1 AM, he came in and woke me up, and took me outside to see snow on the ground. What a gift that moment was. We watched for several minutes, and by the morning it was gone. I learned to never give up hope.
- I learned to be funny. No one thinks the typical engineer is funny, but my dad was funny. He loved jokes, he would do a little jig now and then, and he would be silly at times. He teased us often but never in a way that made us feel less than.
- I learned to do my best. When my grades came in, and I was upset to show him I’d gotten a C in math (one of his favorite subjects), we had a heart-to-heart. He asked me if I’d done my best. I responded that I had. He told me that if I put everything I had into that grade then I should be proud of it. I learned too to take pride in my accomplishments even when they fell short of my expectations.
It’s the everyday, simple conversations, examples that are set moments to remember, that make up a relationship. Dads are super special. They contribute beyond measure to the positive outcomes of their children. It is my hope today that you love on your own dad and the dad or man who is raising your children and recognize him for the incredible gift he is to this world. Happy Father’s Day.