Teachings from the Book of Dad

This week’s creative exercise is more about reflection than imagination. The question posed:
What is the greatest lesson your dad taught you?

I hope that whether you had (or have) a strong (or not so strong) relationship with your father (or for some, the person who assumed that role, whether it’s a mom, brother, uncle, grandfather or stepdad), that this challenge gives you an opportunity to see the value you’ve taken away from that relationship.

It can be hard sometimes to see that value when we’re in the heat of battle or privately stewing from hurt feelings. I’ve seen this happen personally, someone severing ties to their family because of specific events or circumstances that shed doubt on the foundation of that relationship, and I find that really sad and disappointing, because a relationship is made up of a series of happenings and to let one happening or even a few happenings paint the picture of that relationship isn’t always doing it justice. Granted, when abuse is involved, it’s another story but when it becomes a he said-she said thirty, forty years later, and no one really remembers who said what if they’re being honest about it, then it just becomes wasted time.

I have a good relationship with my dad. I’m one of the lucky ones, to not only have my dad active and responsive in my life while growing up and beyond, but also to have the kind of relationship where he has always been both my sidekick as well as my advisor.

Yea, tube socks!

We probably spent as much time laughing on the floor, singing along to his vinyl, making up funny voices and nicknames and simply goofing off than we did having serious conversations. I rarely felt like an only child, because often I felt like I had a goofy older brother in my dad.

As Dad’s gotten older and the world has gotten much faster, I find we have less to talk about because much that is going on in the world has traveled past him and he has elected not to hop on the train to catch up to it. I know I’m not alone and there are others reading this who can relate. I think it has more to do with how drastically different this world is from 35-40 years ago, as opposed to, say between the 1950s and 1980s. So much has taken place so quickly, and I often find myself wanting to play mommy and help my folks along to catch up to it but if one has no interest and is not a willing recipient of that helping hand, you can’t make somebody keep up with a changing world if they’d rather fight it.

You may be surprised I’m being this open and vocal about it, but I’m sure the fact that my parents aren’t sitting in a coffeeshop using the wifi with their tablet is a big part of that.

I’ve learned a lot from my dad but probably the single-most important thing my dad taught me was that I could do anything I want, that I had the talent, the smarts and the RIGHT to do whatever I set my mind to do.

Oh sure, he was and continues to be the voice of reason, logic and common sense, and I’m not saying that if I announced I was suddenly setting out to be a successful singer-songwriter that some articulated judgment wouldn’t accompany it. But I will say that in my most crucial years, when I was trying to discover who I am and what I enjoyed doing and learning, when it looked like, oh sure, I could be a successful student but what the heck kind of career did that mean?!—I could look to my dad to encourage me to keep learning about different topics. When I thought it was a psychologist or when I was going to be the next Barbara Walters, he was my cheerleader. I wouldn’t call my dad a feminist but when it came to me, he was, and I find this interesting because I wouldn’t have expected that based on his traditional Greek-American upbringing that would be considered a bit old-fashioned by today’s standards.

Dad also taught me the value of hard work. He did whatever he had to and sometimes that meant multiple jobs, taking on dirty, laborious work that one might think a college-educated chap like him would think was beneath him, but he has always been willing to do whatever necessary to get the job done- for a customer, for his family, for himself. Maybe it’s the stubborn Greek in him, but I appreciate the work ethic, and though I know I’m not even half the hard worker he is, I try to live up to his standards whatever I’m tackling.

I love my dad. Seeing him this weekend, in fact. We don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. I still think he’s far too old-fashioned when it comes to some social issues but we know what topics of conversation to tackle and which to leave in the drawer.

I hope as you go back and determine what lessons have left the most impact on you, you will find a little joy in reflecting if these are the feelings it inspires or resolution in finding some goodness in what may have been a not-so-endearing situation if that better describes your circumstances. I hope that you will find some clarity, wisdom and peace.

Cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!
Chris

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