First off, I want to thank you all for your comments and support both here on the blog and over on Facebook. On my previous post about my father, many of you noted what you remembered about him and I was greatly encouraged by what was shared. For those of you who missed the last post, this little series was inspired by my father who passed away on Monday July 14th. He struggled for many years with Parkinson’s Disease and, as I mentioned last time, memories of my dad before Parkinson’s wrecked his body have become very important for me and my family. I thought it would be good to go back and think of some things I learned from my dad. Some things he taught through actual instruction but most came from watching his example. Last time I listed the first 5 of 10 things my dad taught me so here we go with the last 5.
6. Creative Problem Solving
My dad was one of the best problem solvers I knew. There were few things he couldn’t fix with the right tools, some time and often an expertly tied knot. Seriously, the knots my dad could tie would never break and would have made the people of Gordium quite proud. None of us could ever figure out how to untie them, but it seemed dad could untie them with one quick pull. Thinking back now, my dad was probably a real life MacGyver. He was rarely frustrated and would always take the time necessary to make sure the job got done right. What this taught me was that most things could be solved with a little time a little creativity and the willingness to learn.
7. Sunday Naps are Essential
Aside from Church on Sunday, one of the other important rituals we had as a family was Sunday naps. Most of the time we would come home from church, have lunch and then just lay around for a bit before we would do anything else on Sunday. Sure we would still do some house work, mow the lawn or even visit with friends, but often that would be preceded by some kind of nap. Now, my dad was FAR from lazy but he realized the importance of a time to rest and rejuvenation before work. For my dad, naps were rarely a waste of time but were essential to finishing the work for the day. There were always things that needed to get done, but a quick siesta (especially on Sunday) could give you just the boost you needed to finish what needed to get done. It can be hard to slow down and take an hour or two to actually rest before taking on the rest of the tasks for the day. What my dad showed me was that those naps were never waste of time and that they led to being able to work more effectively and also be a reminder that the work did not need to control us. The work could wait, it would still be there after the nap and we would be more energized to tackle it effectively.
8. How to Start a Fire
One of the things I miss most about the house I grew up in is the big fireplace. There was nothing like a warm fire on a cold evening. As most boys, I had an uncanny fascination with fire and I would watch my dad roll up newspaper, stack some wood and start a fire. Eventually he let me roll up the newspaper and stack some wood but it took a few years before I was allowed to strike the match and start the fire. We also had a space in our big backyard where we would start a huge bonfire once a year or so. It’s interesting how learning something as primal as starting a fire can leapfrog into other areas of life. Now that I have a family, I’ve been called to start my own fires from time to time. We’ve gone camping a few times and I’ve had to reach deep into my memories of my dad to recall how to set up the paper and wood to effectively start a fire. It’s not a big mystery that I love to cook and barbecue which also involves creating a fire along with managing it and keeping it going. What’s interesting about starting a fire is that it is rarely for selfish reasons. Fires are often communal events and, sort of reaching back to last week’s point about people being important, learning to start a fire is a very basic way I’ve learned how to care for others around me. With a fire I can keep my family and friends warm, I can feed them and we can sit around at night enjoying each others company. These are all things my dad also enjoyed doing.
9. Black Coffee & Eggs Over Easy
I’ve heard people say that we often get our food preferences from our parents. I started out liking my steak well done because my father did. I had a friend lovingly correct this misunderstanding and now stick to medium. However, early on in life I liked my eggs scrambled and when it came time to start drinking coffee I began with mochas. My dad liked his coffee black and his eggs fried over easy with a very runny yolk. Because of my dad, my preferences in eggs switched first and I embraced the runny and messy yolk. I can’t imagine eggs any other way now. The runny yolk adds so much to more than just breakfast. Throw that thing on a hamburger and you’ll never go back. Top a steaming pot of bibimbab and a whole host of flavors open up. When I embraced the straight black coffee another world of coffee opened up as well. There’s nothing like a black cup of (probably cheap but still delicious) diner coffee with breakfast. On the other end of the scale, there’s a whole host of specialty coffees to enjoy out there that cream and sugar on serve to mask the flavors of. While my dad was a reasonably simple man when it came to food, these two simple choices opened me up to flavors and foods I may have never tasted otherwise.
10. How to Love my Wife
My parents were one of the most devoted couples I had the pleasure of knowing. As with all couples, they had their ups and downs but they *NEVER* stopped loving each other. One of my most cherished memories of my dad was shortly after he had to stop driving because of the Parkinson’s disease. I was probably coming home after a college class or something and my dad informed me we needed to go to the store. When I asked him why, he said he needed to get mom some flowers for their anniversary and we were going to drop them off at work and surprise her. I was probably a little annoyed at first but I later would realize that joining my dad on this errand was a blessed peak into the love he had for my mom. I watched as my dad carefully chose flowers he knew mom loved. I have no idea what we talked about on the ride over, but I vividly remember him walking into my mom’s office and immediately begin making all other ladies in the office jealous (like they were back in high school or something) as he marched to my mom’s office to deliver the flowers. It was the cutest and most precious thing ever. Practically up until the day he died, whenever I went to visit dad he would always ask how mom was doing and worried that she was too busy and would tire herself out. My dad loved and cared for my mom even when he was the one needed most of the care in the relationship. My dad taught me that loving my wife was not optional and not something that faded with time. He showed me that public demonstrations of love were essential. Not so much to make others jealous, although it was a nice side benefit, but more to declare to the world that we loved our wives and nothing, not even some stupid disease, should keep us from letting them know that.
Thanks for taking the time to read these memories and lessons I learned from my father. He will desperately be missed by his family and others who loved him. I hope you’ve caught a glimpse of the man I knew him to be before the Parkinson’s began to change him. Again, if you have any other thoughts or memories you would like to share, please leave a comment.