Lessons From My Father For Every Occasion

Father’s Day is this weekend and I will be spending time with the two main fathers in my life: my son’s dad and my step-dad. Both are good men who have always been there for me as long as I have known them. I love and appreciate both as pillars of my crazy world.

And I will be thinking of my dad who passed away June 15, 1995.

My dad, in much too short time he was here, taught me many lessons. Some I thought were just for that moment but as I age, change, grow, live I learn that his wisdom transcends so many facets of my life.

“You can do anything a boy can do except pee on a tree.”

One of the first lines I remember hearing from my dad growing up. I was the youngest child and a tiny kid, but my dad never made me feel small. He planted that seed in my head that I could accomplish anything I wanted to – if I wanted to. Being a girl was not an excuse or an exception – it was just a fact.

20 minutes after teaching me how to drive a stick-shift he looked at me and said, “Now drive us home.”

He taught me not to be afraid, learn my lessons and then immediately apply them. Fear will paralyze you. If you know the basics you can practice until you get it right. Have a great teacher who will allow you to try and support you if you stumble.

“You were right, I was wrong.”

One summer weekend day he was expecting a call and I was outside talking to a friend who had a very loud car. He happened to be a couple blocks away at the time and this was before cell phones. The next thing I knew he was flying up in the driveway looked at me and said, “In the house now.” Up until this point I was terrified of my father and had never spoken back, not even looking at him sideways – I knew better.

Once inside the house he went on to reinforce how important the call was and how irresponsible I was for not being where I could hear the call. Midway through the loud and animated lecture I looked at him and said in a small voice, “If it was that important they will call back.” Then thought I was going to die.

He became still and quiet. I was dead for sure. He looked at me and said those six words and then, “I am sorry.”

It takes a big person to apologize. Do it when it is right, do it at that time and do it without more than is needed. Emotions can get out of control but it doesn’t mean that you are not right in where you stand. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself doesn’t mean being mean, rude, obnoxious or any form of drama. Words are important. Apologies heal.

“Always be a defensive driver.”

He always told me that he didn’t worry about me so much driving it was everyone else. It was important to know where everyone around you is, what they are doing and anticipate their next move so you are prepared and safe.

Layoffs, divorces, breakups, firings, life events happen – pay attention. You can’t always prevent the negatives but know where you are, what you are doing and have an idea of what you can do next and you will be just fine.

“He is my son.”

I grew up in a time that was much different. Prejudices were almost accepted as, “just how people grew up” and so ignorance or bad behavior was accepted. No one talked about being gay or knowing anyone who was – it was like divorce in my grandmother’s era, you just didn’t talk about it.

So when my brother came out the only thing my dad had to say was, “he is my son.” He never treated him any differently before that day or after. He was his dad, he pushed him to be his best, supported him, helped him celebrate his victories and allowed him to grow from his failures. During every single event in his life, accomplishment, challenge or every day life being gay had nothing to do with it to my dad.

Accept people for who they are as a person, not who others or you expect them to be; what matters is the person, not the details. Love unconditionally, listen openly and realize it isn’t about you, what they need is your support, not your judgment.

My house, my rules

This was never exactly said, but oh, so implied. He was a strict and imposing man for all of maybe 5’7”. He was bow-legged and stocky, salt and pepper hair and a man of few words but he was the most intimidating man many of my dates or friends had ever met.

It really sucked being a teenage girl with a father like this. I had boys tell me that they wanted to ask me out on a date but my dad scared the hell out of them and since a rule was they had to meet my dad in person and talk to him before we went out they couldn’t do it, they didn’t want to pee themselves. He literally was cleaning a gun one time when someone came to pick me up.

Use what you have.

You may not be the biggest or baddest but you have unique qualities all on your own that you can learn to use to get the job done. Skill and intelligence can get you the results you want.

“It is easier to remember the truth than a lie.”

Proven time and time again, but it eventually sunk in: be honest with yourself and others and you can always be secure in who you are and your actions.

“Whenever you aren’t sure what to do, imagine me standing right next to you.”

Not a great thought to put in a college girl’s head, but effective. To this day when I have hesitation or doubt, I imagine my dad there with me. It isn’t a matter now of doing the right thing or being worried about getting “caught” it is a matter of pride.

Am I helping others to the best of my ability, am I applying all his life lessons and most importantly am I being true to myself? This is who I would want to be if he were standing right next to me and that has guided me during difficult situations.

Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t the easy thing. Sometimes you feel like you are standing alone even though it would be easier to stand in a crowd. I’ve never been alone during those times because I know my dad is right there next to me saying, “that’s my girl.”

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Leave a Reply