He’s been gone 18 years and I still remember the day we lost him. Looking back, there were signs but in our busy quest to live life, we ignored them. Sure I urged him to go to the doctor. But as a working mom with a young child and busy work travel schedule, did I ask him about the appointment? Or ask how he was feeling? No, I chose to be preoccupied with my own life.
The only solace I have is that I had the luxury of spending a wonderful day with him just before he was suddenly gone. On that chilly December day, my husband, young daughter and I helped Dad and Mom decorate their house for Christmas. I can still hear Dad humming Christmas carols and good naturally hanging up all of the decorations that the rest of us couldn’t reach. At 6’3” in height, he could reach lots of things we couldn’t!
Today would be my Dad’s 78th Birthday. While the initial pain of losing him has long ago faded, I still think of (and miss) him every day. And it’s interesting that the older I get, the more respect I have for the man he was. In fact, he was my first "LIFE" coach and his lessons for living a complete and fulfilled life are still some of the most valuable I've learned.
Speak Little, Say Much
Dad was the strong silent type and always believed that “actions spoke louder than words.”
While I never realized it in my youth, when he spoke people listened. Now with the luxury of a few more birthdays (and the wisdom that comes with them), I realize now that he commanded respect because he chose his words carefully and listened more than he talked.
What a wonderful thing to teach your children. Although, since my siblings have always referred to me as “Chatty Kathi,” I may still have some work to do on this front!
Listen more than you talk and you may just be surprised what you can learn.
Kindle the Flame.
My Dad was without a doubt a wonderful role model to us kids. He was quite simply a believer. He believed in God, family and the sanctity of marriage.
While my siblings I obviously remember Mom and Dad having disagreements (what couple doesn’t), we also have fond recollections of their good times.
My sister recently shared one of her memories of them as a couple and it made me smile. A big smile…you know one of those that go all the way to your eyes!
You see when Mom would be dressed up for church or one of their rare social events, he would give a low whistle and say 2 simple words….Hubba Hubba. I shared earlier that he was a man of few words. But those 2 little words, spoke volumes to my mother. After nearly 40 years of marriage, she still turned his head.
In our crazy fast paced lives, so many couples forget the importance of a letting their spouse know the attraction is still there. If that fire is dead, rekindle it. And if the embers are burning but faintly, give your relationship a burst of air and get that fire blazing again!
Life doesn’t give Do Overs!
While I’m sure my adoration for my father is obvious, he did have some regrets. I suppose we all do. As a farm kid, I struggled with their non-conventional work schedule and the fact that my parents rarely attended my school events.
While they always encouraged me to be involved, I would have loved for them to watch me compete in my various activities…and there were many (probably too many!)
It wasn’t until my daughter had her first school related event that I realized that dad fully wanted a “do over” on school functions. My husband was helping on the farm and apologized that he needed to leave at a certain time for something at school.
With his clear, strong and passionate voice, Dad simply said, “Go. Go to every school function she has. I didn’t and I regret it.” Unfortunately my Dad couldn’t get a “do over” and chances are you won’t either.
Life is about priorities. Choose yours carefully.
Consistency is Key
Unfortunately, we lost my dad fairly early in my parenting journey. I believe raising the next generation is the most important accomplishment most of us (myself included) will ever achieve. But it can also be incredibly difficult.
While perhaps he didn’t realize it, his actions taught me that in parenting “consistency is key” and if you are lucky enough to have a partner in the journey, make them an ally…not the enemy!
You see, Dad and Mom made a pretty good parenting team and had the “good cop” “bad cop” routine down to pure science. When we didn’t like the answer Mom provided and went to Dad in hopes of hearing what we wanted, his first question was always, “what did your Mom say?”
And so quickly, the argument was over. They were united and we were not going to win that battle.
Be consistent and dependable in all aspects of your life…especially as a parent!
Don’t Mess with the Judge
We all have the opportunity to judge others daily. These decisions can be based on clothing, physical appearance or perhaps something more tangible like words that are said.
In Dad’s mind, only God could (and should) pass judgment on someone. Perhaps his affable, care-free personality helped him avoid the behavior (to some I think it’s a hobby) that so many struggle with.
Regardless, I can still hear him saying, “don’t judge someone until you walked a mile in their shoes.”
Now as an adult, I realize if taken literally, a mile isn’t very far at all. But as a small child, it seemed a distance that I could never possibly walk! And so simply, Dad taught me that I never had the right to judge anyone. And of course, he followed that up with, "if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all!"
Such simple words that have the power to change your life and the perception others have of you!
Find the Faith
There is no doubt that I am who I am today because of my Dad’s influence. He was a big guy. Not only in stature, but more importantly by how he lived his life.
He rose every morning with a cheery smile and anxious to do God’s work in his home, his life and his church. Conversations about God and religion were a mainstay in our home and always visible in Dad’s parenting efforts.
He had so much faith that during long bouts of rainy weather, he would often say, “when the good Lord wants me to farm, I guess it will quit raining.” I must admit, while I live a faith based life, I’ve never been able to turn things over to God like he always did.
Yet another thing for me to continue to work on Dad!
Dad, thank you for being a wonderful role model and parent! While we lost you WAY too soon, I still feel your hand (and words!) in my life every day.
I love you and Happy Birthday!
What life lessons did your Dad teach you?