I’ve said it before; biology doesn’t make a father; fathering makes a father. Although technically my dad is my step-dad, he adopted me when he and my mom married in 1955. He was and is everything you could ask for in a father. He was there for every important (and even the not-so-important) events in my life. He has been my model of what a father is–a man who nurtures, loves, encourages and sets good examples for his child. If he told me once, he told me a thousand times to “be aware.” That is, be aware of what and who is around. Had I grown up in these high-tech times, I am sure he would have been one of those dads who said “Get your face out of that <cell phone, iPad, name-your-mobile-device here> and pay attention to the world around you!”
He would have also been dead set against the new cars that parallel-park for you, emit beeps and buzzers to warn you of people or objects behind the car, or another vehicle swerving too close to you, or one that brakes for you if you are so inattentive that you are not watching where you are going. He taught me how to drive responsively, to constantly be aware of everything around me and to keep distractions at a minimum. He always said that driving demands our absolute attention, and he was and is right. He felt that you had no business driving a car if you couldn’t change a tire, parallel-park, check the oil and maintain your vehicle responsibly.
My dad will be 90 this year, and he continues to be a model of good health, as well as keeping active and truly maintaining a sound mind in a sound body. He still skies every winter, and has a small following of friends young enough to be his grandchildren who enjoy skiing with him and learning from him. He keeps his mind active by reading and studying, meditating and keeping a willing spirit. His whole being is open to all things positive, healthy, joyous and good. He is an example of life well-lived and thoroughly enjoyed.
When we all were young; me as a child, and my then-young parents, we found our way together. We became a family of near equals; family business was openly discussed and often debated. I knew even as a child, that we were not rich by any means, and that money was to be carefully spent. I understood well the phrase “we can’t afford it,” and adjusted my wants accordingly. If there was something I felt I just had to have, then chores beyond the usual ones were offered to me as a way to buy what I wanted. I learned early on what it was like to work to earn money, and the great pleasure of buying something with my own hard-earned money. This also taught me to take good care of what I owned. It was a gift I will never forget.
Even if I wasn’t always too keen on doing regular house-hold chores (my least favorite being vacuuming the house every Wednesday), I knew from my parents that we each had responsibilities that benefited everyone. I understood that doing these things was what families do–everyone helps out.
One of the many things Dad made sure of was that I would grow up independent. He taught me many “boy” skills; how to handle a gun and shoot straight, how to change a tire, use a knife responsibly, build a good campfire and put it out safely, ride a bike, and so many other things. He didn’t want me to be the kind of girl/woman who had to have a man do everything for her. It couldn’t have been easy on him (or his patience) to deal with a whiny child who frankly did not want to learn these things; but I did understand the reason why. Because of his early and excellent training, I wish the same for my 3-year old granddaughter. She is fortunate to have a mom and dad who are actively involved in her life and are teaching her the same kind of life skills my dad taught me.
I know that my dad put his whole heart and soul into loving me and, along with my mother, raised me to be a responsible and good person. This is a gift beyond measure. When you positively affect a child’s life in the way he has affected mine, the legacy goes on and on. I now find myself saying things to my granddaughter that my dad said to me. I believe with all my heart that the change good men who are good fathers impress upon their children is priceless. It is also one that keeps on giving from generation to generation.
Dad, I love you, respect you, admire you and continue to learn from you. I wish the happiest of Fathers’ Days to you, my true father.