Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thanks, Dad

Here's a post from June 21, 2009.  

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Today I thought I'd write about the things Dad taught me. The youngest of ten children of a south Texas dairyman, my Dad was raised by six doting sisters, three brothers and two very hard working parents. He's proud of the fact that he was in the first graduating class of the Air Force Academy, and his service as a career pilot in the Air Force. My siblings and I grew up as what many described as military brats in the communities we moved to every three or four years, although that's not true. Not a one of us were allowed to be brats.

This time last year Dad was sick and hospitalized for the very first time in his life. He's always been a picture of health, so it was a terrific shock to our family when he had emergency surgery in the middle of Montana while on vacation last summer. He's fine now, for which we're all grateful. His parents lived into their 90's, so we fully expect another 20 years with Dad. I look forward to updating this post each year on Father's Day.

Dad tried to teach me many things, some of which I've learned and some of which I've stubbornly resisted:

1. Eat dessert first. This one I learned easily and early. I know my sweet tooth came directly from Dad's side of the gene pool.

2. Read. Long before it was fashionable for parents to sign "reading logs," and count the minutes kids spent reading each day, my Dad encouraged his kids to read simply by setting the example. I think it stems from his innate curiosity as much as from a desire to teach his kids to be lifelong readers. In any event, I know that he'd rather get a book for Father's Day than anything else, except chocolate.

3. Play. Dad loves to play card games and board games. Never one to follow professional sports or outside athletics, he loved to play games with us when we were little, and he continues to be an avid card player. One might say that was because living in North Dakota during our formative years meant there weren't many options, but I think he knew the value of family time spent together.

4. Be nice. Dad never gossips. I don't recall him ever saying an unkind word about anyone. Still working on this discipline, myself.

5. Respect authority. Whether this is a trait learned from twenty-some years in the military, or it was already in his character and made the military life suitable for him, I don't know. I do know that Dad has always respected his President as his Commander in Chief. Even when it was a, well, challenge. I do remember some rather heated dinnertime discussions in the 70's over President Nixon…

6. Live a life of Integrity. Regarding item 5, one may make exceptions for ethical principles. Dad has a profound sense of personal ethics. One must never compromise one's integrity, and he warned us that standing up for one's principles might lead to personal hardship and political backlash from those in power.

7. Don't sweat the small stuff. Unlike his obsessive oldest daughter, Dad doesn't worry much about the details.

8. Be generous. My Dad takes extraordinary pride in the generosity of his parents during the Great Depression. His parent's dairy herd continued to produce milk through the lean years, and they generously continued to supply their customers regardless of ability to pay. Dad gives generously of his time, talent, and treasure, and always has.

9. Never buy a teenager a car that will run reliably for more than a few weeks. In the five year time span when my older brother (one year older than me), my younger sister (three years younger than me, at that time (now she's older than me)) and I learned to drive, I think we had about ten cars. I recall the average price was $50. None of them were fast, each was at least twenty years old, and I don't even remember all of them. My favorites were the blue Fiat convertible and the huge tan 1950's Ford truck, both of which were sexy in their own way. Were it not for Dad's philosophy on household transportation, I wouldn't have met my husband, but that's a story for another day.

10. Love your kids unconditionally. Dad has been my biggest cheerleader, and when I was growing up in the 70's he never said there was anything I couldn't do. He's not right about that, there are lots of things I'm not good at. But I am enormously grateful that the first man in my life believed in me from day one.

Thanks Dad.


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