My father has taught me many things in my life and he continues to teach me and now my children and my husband every day. Here are some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my dad:
1. There can be a lot of power in ‘No’ – I am a strong-willed person, while it frustrated him over the years – starting at about 2, it’s served me well (for the most part). I now have a strong-willed child and as he likes to say ‘Payback is a Bitch.’
2. I should always trust my gut. He told me this once and I’ve always reminded myself of these words when I’ve had a difficult decision to make. He was right.
3. Being in nature restores your soul. I grew up camping, backpacking, and traveling in a Winnebago. We visited the desert, the mountains, rivers, lakes and more. Every single trip and experience was a lesson in respecting the earth, enjoying the company of good friends and family, and relishing the amazing beauty and power the earth has to offer.
4. Friendships take work. My dad has friends in all corners of the world. He makes a very conscious effort to stay in touch with them and visit when he’s traveling through whatever town they reside in. I am still working on this one, but I understand and respect the lesson and will continue to work on it.
5. It’s really easy to make chili. Really good chili. And Spam and beans ONLY taste good when you’re on day 3 of a camping trip, otherwise they’re a hot, salty mess (sorry if you’re a Spam-at-home fan). Oh, and my brother’s pack is the best place to pack your beer and/or ice cream before you set off on the trail – just do it when he’s not looking.
6. Every human being has value and should be treated with respect. As an example, my dad will take note of the names of basically anyone he interacts with wherever he goes and he will talk to them as though he’s known them for years. He often brings a smile to their faces with that very simple act of asking them how their day is going with sincerity and engaging them in a conversation, even if it’s brief. There are all kinds of people in the world and not everyone will believe in the same things you do; they may not always make the best choices in their lives, but everyone deserves to be loved and respected.
7. There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to take responsibility for yourself. His (and my mom’s) job was making sure I was ready. I had to learn how to change a tire and the oil in my car before he’d let me drive away for the first time. Tires are easier than oil – which I learned when I proudly tried to change my oil for the first time and drained my transmission fluid. Hence the lesson that there’s no shame in having a AAA membership and using it and a good, honest mechanic is a very valuable thing. I also learned that when it rains and your new tent seams aren’t quite sealed, you just have to get wet and figure it out (he likes this one, since he was nice and dry in the next tent over.)
8. Money isn’t everything, but it doesn’t hurt. This doesn’t mean that you spend your life slaving away or that you need to play the lotto, it means that you prioritize what’s important to you in life. It requires that you manage your money in alignment with those priorities. Don’t live beyond your means. Save. Invest. Give.
9. Family is what you make it. My dad has gone through life collecting new ‘family’ members. I have a ‘sister’ in England and another in S. California (there may be more) and while I’m told I’m his favorite daughter, I know he would do anything for those other ‘daughters’ if they needed him. He also has a few extra ‘sons’, ‘brothers’, ‘cousins’… My brother and I don’t feel any less loved as a result of our extended, honorary ‘family’.
10. I’m often stronger than I think I am. It helps when you know you have someone there ready to catch you if you fall. Looking back on my life, there have been many times when my dad was there with just the right words to get me through a bad patch – a bout of depression, a broken heart, anxiety about a tough decision, the loss of a child, or a cancer diagnosis. I can handle a lot, it turns out, but his love and support and the love of my friends and other family make it easier to bear the burden and carry on to fight another day.
I will do my best to pass these lessons on to my own children and find the joy in every day I have left.
Happy Father’s Day Dad!