Sunday, June 16, 2013

Daddy's Lessons

          My daddy was a quiet, gentle man. He was fairly patient most of the time. He did all the things you would expect a good daddy to do. He provided faithfully for his family, and he spent time with his kids. I think he really wanted me to win the pinewood derby. He acted like he really enjoyed making those race cars.  He was always proud when ever I caught a fish, no matter how small. He also taught his kids important lessons. To his credit, he was pragmatic in his teaching style. He used whatever method worked. He role modeled and demonstrated virtues he thought were important. He talked if he thought that was sufficient to get his point across. And on an occasion or two, he would refer some matter to the "board" of education. Three lessons by three methods are memorable to me now as an adult.

     One winter morning in 1961,  I was awaken by some unusual commotion in the house. Daddy always got up and went to work while I was still asleep. This particular morning, he was going through his normal routine when he suddenly "blacked out." What woke me was the ambulance crew. My mamma had found him lying on the bathroom floor and had called for help. When I arrived on the scene, I saw my daddy was lying on an ambulance stretcher. He was awake and talking to the emergency attendants. They were telling him they suspected he had had a heart attack and were planning on taking him to the hospital. He politely thanked them for coming to check on him, but he said, "I'll be alright. I have to go to work." With that pronouncement, the discussion was over. I saw him get up off the stretcher and go to work. I remember thinking in my five year old logic, that going to work must be pretty important. I didn't worry about it anymore, cause daddy was strong. 

     In 1966, I told my daddy I need two cents. Naturally, he wanted to know why. I explained that I had an overdue library book and the fine was two pennies. Oh my gosh, the lecture that followed! You would have thought I had joined the mafia. I tried reasoning with him that it was "only two cents. What's the big deal?" He explained that it wasn't the amount of money that bothered him, but that fines were for punishing people who broke the law. He said, "I've never paid a fine for anything in my life." That's the line that made me understand the concept he was trying to teach. I felt proud that he could claim such a record. He is eighty-seven years old today, and has still never paid so much as an overdue library book fine. 

     In 1973 I was seventeen years old. I was at the zenith of worldly knowledge and was testing my limits with these two "old people" who were my parents. I was bucking authority. After all, I knew everything, and I didn't need them telling me how to live my life. Well, if there were two things that tested my daddy's patience,  it was causing a scene at the supper table and back talking. I was in violation of both this day. I have absolutely no recollection of what the disagreement was about, but I do remember talking very disrespectfully  to my mamma as we sat down to eat supper. I sat next to my daddy at the table, but was completely focused on the tongue lashing I was dishing out to mamma.  Suddenly, with a speed that would have impressed Mohammad Ali, my daddy reached over and shoved me on my left shoulder, causing me to nearly fall out of the chair. As I regained focus (now definitively on him,) he asked one simple question. "Do you want to go outside?" Being as smart as I was and understanding exactly what he meant, I declined. I've never regained the level of intelligence I thought I had, and ironically, daddy seemed to get  much smarter afterwards.

     Could you think of three better lessons to have learned from your daddy? Work hard, follow the rules, and show respect for others, especially your mamma and elders. They have served me well.  Today, I am a nursing home administrator, where I work hard and respect those I take care of. I don't have a criminal record, unless you count the speeding ticket I got a few years ago, that I never bothered mentioning to my daddy. I did have to miss work a few days because of a minor heart ailment. But note this: I have never had another overdue library book. 

    Thank you to my daddy and others like him. We honor you. Happy Father's Day!

     Until next time.........Steve ( )