Blog Archives

Things I Learned From My Dad

Baby Bro

My Dad with his kids. Guess which one is me?

This Saturday marks the 23rd anniversary of the day my Dad passed away.  To honor his memory, I will provide anecdotal evidence of the great teacher he was.  I wish I could provide it to him in person, but I have faith that he will hear it anyway.

 


 

When I was a teenager, I became aware of a macabre habit:  on Saturday mornings, Dad would get his coffee, sit at the end of the counter, and read the paper.  And while I’m sure he read all the traditional parts (sports, front page, etc.), it was his custom to also read the obituaries.  If he found someone he knew, even (especially) if it was someone he knew from a long time ago, he would get up from his counter stool, get dressed, and head to that funeral.  As a teenager, I was horrified by this prospect.  Just showing up at a funeral to express condolences to a group of strangers, for someone you haven’t seen in years, it’s insanity!

My Dad died relatively young (he was 52), he died suddenly, and our family is large, so we prepared for the crowds by having his wake in the church, rather than in the more traditional funeral home.  I believe the doors opened at 7 pm, and I did not see the end of that line until after 11 pm.  The crowds of people who came to pay their respects to that man still blow my mind.  As a daughter, the people who made the most lasting impression on me were not the relatives or close family friends.  Of course, I appreciated their presence, but I expected to see them.  What stands out to me, even 23 years later, are the men who walked up to me, shook my hand, and told me what a great childhood friend my father was, or what a great co-worker he was, many years ago.

To this day, when I find out that someone has died, and I knew them even in a peripheral way, I attend their funeral.

 


 

If I may be so bold to characterize the parenting style in which I was raised, I would label it Fear-Based Parenting.  “Wait until your father gets home” are words that still strike terror in my heart, and the man’s been dead for almost a quarter of a century.  Lest you think I’m criticizing, I often long for my children to have that same fear of me, but, sadly, that ship has sailed.

One of the arenas in which the fear mongering played out was academics.  I dreaded that quarterly report card as if it were a death sentence for 12 straight years, and the most ridiculous part of it was I was consistently on the honor roll.  The one and only time I remember that fear being necessary was either second or third grade, and I received an “S-” in conduct.  I could not contain the anxiety as I waited until evening, when my father got home.  He sat at the counter (same spot where he read the paper), and I stood, trembling next to him as he studied the green cardstock.  He looked down at me, and he said, “You did a good job on your report card.  The teacher’s pen must have slipped near the “S” on the conduct line, she needs to be more careful.”

I almost fainted with relief.

Last weekend my daughter and I were driving in the car, and she bursts into tears.  When she calmed enough to speak, she said, “I really screwed up, there’s nothing I can do to fix it, and I’m too scared to tell you what I did.”

Note to teenage children reading:  This is a great strategy, because by the time you tell them what actually happened, your parents, having immediately conjured up things like homicide, pregnancy, and drug-related crimes, will want to hug you instead of kill you.  Unless you did in fact murder someone, are pregnant, or have been arrested for a drug-related crime.  In that case, I can’t help you to strategize your confession.

It turns out my that the inaugural experience with mid-terms did not have the best results.  We talk through the how’s and why’s, and attempt to create some learning points for the future.  But by the time we are heading for home, she is a wreck again, because now she has to tell Daddy, and oh my god he is going to kill me.  I say I will talk to him first.  I do, and armed with the facts, and me recounting the Tale of the “S-,” he calls her down and has a similar conversation.  And her relief was as palpable as I’m sure mine was, all those years ago.  And I’m sure the chuckle my husband and I shared was similar to the one my Mom and Dad had all those years ago.

 


 

When I was roughly the age my son is now (12), I had an ongoing Bickering War with my younger brother.  Every day we would come home from school and proceed to taunt, bully, and scream at each other until my Mom got home from work.  And then continued to taunt bully and scream at each other in a slightly more subdued way.  My grandmother lived with us, but I don’t remember much her opinion on the situation, although as a parent now I can make an educated guess.  I’m also sure my Mom threatened us numerous times, to no avail.

One day my Dad is home from work a little earlier than usual.  I am called from whatever I was doing to set next to him at the counter (at the same spot where he read the paper and report cards).  He tells me he is home from work early because his boss called him into the office to have a talk with him.  Turns out, a neighbor has been complaining about the ruckus my brother and I have been causing on a regular basis, and the neighbor has complained to my Dad’s place of employment.  The boss tells my Dad, “Jack, if you can’t control your kids at home, how can I expect you to control your truck at work?”  He looks at me earnestly, and tells me how important my job is to him, to our family.  Do I want him to lose his job?

I am in tears, and I solemnly vow to keep things under control while he is at work.  I am permitted to leave the kitchen, and I hole myself away to plot my revenge against the neighbor who squealed.  As I consider the possibilities,  a few thoughts occur to me:

a.  My Dad is a truck driver, and

b.  I myself have no idea how to get a hold of him at work, let alone his boss.

My tears of shame turn into tears of outrage.  But since I was raised under the Fear-Based Parenting model, I allow the rage to subside.  And I did tone down the bickering, so I guess it was a successful strategy.

The lesson?  A well-crafted tale can work wonders with children, but the details are critical to its success.

 


Today’s Miracle:

Despite his dying young, I have a multitude of stories from which to choose when writing this post.  Hopefully I will get a chance to share them all!

Happy Father’s Day

A father is respected because
he gives his children leadership…
appreciated because
he gives his children care…
valued because
he gives his children time…
loved because
he gives his children the one thing
they treasure most – himself.

As I wrote in my “Mother’s Day” post, I have been fortunate to have been blessed with not one, but two sets of amazing parents.  Since I took the opportunity to give accolades to Moms on their special day, I figured I would give equal time to the Dads of the world.

If Moms are all about love, forgiveness and quiet strength, then Dads are all about discipline, leadership and not- so-quiet strength.  They are the ones we turn to when something breaks, when we are lost, or when (and this is especially true for me) we need general how-to information. 

As I mentioned, I have had the great gift of having two Dads, the first having passed away 20 years ago, the other for the past 13 years through marriage.  And while I miss my biological Dad dearly, I could not be more fortunate to have my current Dad.  If not for him, I would not, at the most basic level, have my husband and children.  But more importantly, he leads our family by his great example…. there is not one thing that he teaches us (and believe me, he has taught all of us so many things!) that he is not willing to do himself.  So when preaches the value of hard work, he is the first to volunteer when a project needs to be done.  When he preaches family values, he is the absolute first person there for any one of his family members in a crisis. 

He has shown me, and his son, who emulates him perfectly in this respect, the real meaning of fatherhood.  I simply cannot imagine what my life would be lacking without him as a role model, a source of strength, and as a friend.

losing anonymously

Learning to balance healthy and happy while living a full and busy life!

Oh for the love of...me

Just another 50+ woman trying to get her shit together.

Guitars and Life

Blog about life by a music obsessed middle aged recovering alcoholic from South East England

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

HealthyJen

From daily wine drinker to alcohol free living...this is my journey.

themessyjessytruth.wordpress.com/

The emotional messy stuff...

Vodka Goggles

No longer seeing the world through vodka colored glasses..

Mindfulbalance

An Irish Mindfulness Meditation Blog: Practicing calm, wellness, meaning and a happier life.

viatoday

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Starting today I am on my way.

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

Emotional Sobriety And Food

"... to be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety" -- living, loving & letting go.

girl gone sober.

a blog about living sober. i didn't always drink beer but when i did i drank a lot of it. stay sober my friends.

The Sober Garden

Jettisoning the heavy stuff...

The Six Year Hangover

A BLOG BY A GAY MAN GETTING SOBER IN NEW YORK CITY.

Process Not An Event

Adventures in Addiction Recovery & Cancer Survival

And Everything Afterwards

How I quit alcohol and discovered the beauty of a sober life