Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day: Things My Father Taught Me

Dad feeds baby Pam, about 3 months old.
Photo by Mom, June 1956
Dad was a teacher, even though he trained for civil engineering and did a lot of construction. I started learning from him when I was tiny. In honor of him on this Father's Day, here are some things Dad either taught me, or helped me learn.

Don't Argue With Mom. Why? Because you'll always lose. It's not about who's right and who's wrong, because with Mom - it's either Her Way or the Highway. If you need help, go see Dad. Just don't let Mom find out.

If You Wake Up First, You Gotta Make the Coffee. I was the kid that liked to get up early on weekends and start watching cartoons on TV, even though my parents wanted to sleep late. Dad just decided to turn that into an advantage for him, so he taught me how to make coffee (in an all-metal percolator with a glass bulb on top!) Then he made me promise not to turn the sound on the TV up too loud, and for gosh sakes, don't sit too close to the screen because it will ruin your eyes! To this day, I am still making his coffee. Smart, isn't he?

Don't Spend All Your Money Just Because You've Got Some. Once a week, Dad would hand us girls some cash for lunch. He would always ask for the change when we got home. Often, he would look it over and then let us keep it. (We didn't get an allowance and didn't get paid for chores.) It was one way of teaching us how to save. Maybe that is where I got my early training in being a tightwad.

Cars Are Members of the Family. Dad has always loved cars. His first car, bought with money earned from odd jobs, was a 1931 Model A Ford with a rumble seat. He still talks about that car! He's had a DeSoto, Plymouth, Dodge, and several Oldsmobiles. And 9 months before I was born, Mom and Dad bought their first new car, a 1955 Olds Rocket 88. It was two-tone green, 4-door, with tons of chrome and an all-metal dashboard. He spent many Saturday afternoons maintaining our cars himself and rarely took them to a mechanic. We were taught to treat cars respectfully and drive defensively. And man! If we got into a fender-bender or got a scratch on the paint, did we catch it! As for the '55, Dad loves that car so much, he still has it. After all, it's practically a person by now.

Geometry Is Good For You. He taught me how to draw with pencils that he sharpened with his pocket knife. Because he did a lot of drafting, he let us use geometric templates to start drawings. So many things can be seen as the sum of their collective circles, triangles, curves, ellipses, and lines. He would frequently bring home huge sheets of paper from the office and let us girls go wild drawing on them. We never lacked for paper and pencils and colors. It may sound odd, but even though I have mathophobia, I've always enjoyed geometry. For many years I did technical illustration, because of his influence and encouragement.

Take Care of People, Be Good to Animals. Dad brought home all kinds of stray critters. We got to have dogs and cats, but also baby possums and mockingbirds. Any animal that lived with us had to be cared for and treated kindly. Sometimes it had to go back to the wild, but while it was with us, it would have a pretty easy life. When Dad's parents retired and moved to their farm, he helped them fix up the place and get settled. And after his father died, he and Mom took in his mother for a while, until she needed professional care. Nowdays, Dad lives with us, and we spend all our time together.

There's so much more that I could list of the things that Dad has taught me. The main thing is that it is okay to love people. Even if they are unlovely towards me. People are not just here to be used. We are here to help each other. And to teach, and to learn. Happy Father's Day to all the Dad and kiddos!

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