So, it’s Father’s Day and of course that got me thinking about my dad…and how the things you learn from your parents are different. I think, as a woman, I focus too often on what I learned from my mom and how much I’m like my mom, and kind of leave my dad in the background. But the truth is, I’ve learned just as much from my dad.
So, in honor of my father, here are the 4 most important things I learned from him:
- Being afraid is nothing to be ashamed of.
It was late summer in the early seventies and the five of us—my parents, my two brothers and I—were all heading out on a family vacation. We were stuffed into my dad’s old beat up Plymouth and we were pulling the pop up camper which meant we couldn’t run the air conditioning. So, even with the windows down, the inside of the car was roughly the same temperature as the sun.
We spent most trips trying not to burst into flame.
But we spent one trip trying to dodge the bee my dad inadvertently flung into the back seat.
See, the thing is, my dad hates bees. A lot. In fact, to paraphrase Shakespeare, my father hates bees like he hates the devil, all Montagues, and death itself.
So, when the bee flew in the driver’s side window, Dad freaked out and completely forgot what he was doing and who he was with.
Instead, he began whipping his hat around, trying to beat the bee to death.
Unfortunately, all he did was fling the bee into the backseat—and right onto my younger brother.
The bee did what bees do and my brother started screaming at the top of his lungs. At which point my mother turned on my father and yelled “What in the hell is the matter with you?’
I’ll be honest, many a strong man has faltered in the face of my mother’s wrath but my dad just shrugged. “Sorry,” he said. “I just really hate bees.”
And then, of course, he pulled over and he and mom began taking care of my poor brother…but the unspoken lesson was clear: you can’t help what you’re afraid of.
2. Nothing is impossible.
Right before I was supposed to renew my Missouri driver’s license for the first time, I lost it. I don’ t mean the police took it away or anything like that; I mean I forgot where I put it. And when I went in to try to get a new one, I found out that—because of new state regulations-- I had to show my birth certificate in order to get a replacement license.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a copy of my birth certificate.
So, I called the appropriate department in my Illinois hometown and learned that—because of new state regulations—I needed a driver’s license or other photo id to get a copy of my birth certificate.
At this point I, of course, spent about five minutes trying to say every curse word I’d ever heard in my life.
Then I called my dad—who, interestingly enough, was in neither Missouri nor Illinois but spending the winter in Florida—and explained my problem. He listened to the whole saga without interrupting, then said “Hang tight” and hung up the phone. He then made a few calls to different agencies back home and called my brother with more instructions. Twenty minutes later, my brother called me and said a copy of my birth certificate would be in the mail the next day.
“What are you going to do when Dad’s not around to solve your problems?” My brother asked.
“Call you,” I said. “He seems to be grooming you to take over the position.”
But, let’s be honest, no one will EVER be able to fix things like my dad.
3. It’s Better To Be Safe Than Unembarrassed.
A few months ago, I had a gall bladder attack in the middle of the night—except I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that I had sudden, excruciating pain radiating through my entire upper body. It was so bad that—in spite of my so called adult status—I called home for advice.
“Go to the emergency room,” my mom said.
“But what if I go and they say it’s something like gas pains?” I moaned. “I’ll feel so stupid.”
At which point, my dad took the phone. “There are A LOT of people in the cemetery who didn’t want to feel stupid,” he said.
And I went to the emergency room…which was probably for the best since it turned out I had a 2 centimeter stone rumbling around my 7 centimeter gall bladder.
4. True love is real.
Someone once said the best gift a father an give his children is to love their mother....and not only is that true, it's also a gift I always had.
My parents were high school sweethearts. In addition, they worked together EVERY DAY for about 30 years of their 40+ year marriage. In that type of situation, one of two things happens: You become best friends or you get divorced. It never once occurred to me that my parents would get divorced.
And they never have.
It’s almost over the top how close they are…I won’t say that my dad worships the ground my mom walks on but I will say I’ve heard him say a single negative word about her. He might tease her or bicker good naturedly but it is never mean-spirited. He still brings her flowers, he still acts like he can’t believe how lucky he is to have found her.
To be honest, it’s probably the reason I married so late in life…I compared every relationship I had against my parents' ; I wanted someone who loved me like my dad loves my mom, who gave me the same respect that my dad gives my mom. I wanted someone I could laugh with, someone who could be the best friend and soul mate that my dad is for my mom.—and that’s not easy to find. In fact it took me almost 40 years to find someone who came close.
And you know what?
He’s afraid of bees too.