Yesterday was a sad day for me. I normally don’t write about my personal life on the blog but it has been one year since my Dad’s death. He was 86 when he died. I no longer have this lifeline. My mother died when I was in my late twenties. But as I grieve, I know that who I am was a gift from him. He taught me the following 4 important life lessons that made me the person that I am today.
A Glimpse of My Dad
Although you never met him, I would like for you to get a glimpse of what he was like before I explain what he taught me.
Unlike me, he wasn’t a gregarious or social person. Family was everything to him. My mom had three children in five years, which back then wasn’t unusual.
Although he wasn’t very social, he loved to dance. I can always remember dancing with him at parties. I inherited his dancing feet.
And oh, did he love big boy toys–motorcycles, boats, cars, and airplanes. I think they provided a sense of freedom. He always seemed to be so peaceful when he was flying or driving a boat.
He was the master of his universe.
He also loved golden retriever dogs, and they became his constant companions later on in life.
Some of my fondest memories were Sunday when I was little. It was his day with us kids. He took us for pancakes and then to see his airplane so my mom could have a break. I swear he bought a yellow plane with a portable toilet for me since “holding it” was not my strongest suit. Honestly, it is the plane I remember the most.
Sorry, about too much information. He even warned my fiancee, now husband about car rides with me. “Be prepared for many stops.” Something don’t change.
He even met his match with our Palomino horse, Luke. One day Luke just didn’t want to move when my father rode him. My Dad got so mad at him, that he dismounted and walked back to the barn. Luke just stood there stubborn as ever.
Luke was sold thereafter. So maybe Luke met his match.
One thing that stood out about my Dad is he didn’t mince words and wasn’t always the most tactful person. He said it like it was. He was a straight shooter.
Once he told me that I would be a great kid if I only drank my milk. I hated milk with a passion. I guess he meant that I was good kid but to achieve greatness I need to chug milk…
I guess that was his way of telling me how proud he was of me. He would be beaming if I just drank that darn milk.
We also shared a love of tuna fish, peas, and ice cream. (What a combination. And no, I didn’t eat them all together.)
But what stands out for me is what he taught me.
4 Important Life Lessons
Lesson #1–Always Work Your Hardest
He believed in hard work and if you want something you need to earn it. I was working in my teens as a babysitter and then in retail during summers. I always had a job except a few times in college.
He thought my garden was a big hobby and I should return to work as a lawyer. I remember the first time he saw that I was growing corn he just laughed. I guess you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl. (I am originally from Columbus, Ohio.)
But gardening to me was like his joy of flying. It gives me a sense of peace and connection that is hard to explain. My connection is in the ground and his was in the air.
He never got to see the day that I turned “the little garden who could” into a business. I started selling my herbs at Anna Lee Herbs in February, 2 months after he died. He probably would have still told me to go back and practice law.
But he taught me with hard work comes perseverance. He worked hard and didn’t give up on his dreams. I feel the same way.
Lesson #2–Learn to Fix it Yourself:
I can’t throw anything away. Remember, he taught me to value my possessions.
He also was very handy and tried to fix what he could. I was so proud of myself when I fixed a trash-bound lamp. (Okay, I called him a dozen times while I was working on the lamp.) Or when I took a homeowner’s course to learn how to fix household issues such as plumbing and electrical issues. I even learned how to install drywall and tile.
(Don’t hire me, please. It was a crash course!)
The first time I used a power saw (which I thought was thrilling) he yelled at me that they were dangerous and not to mess around with them.
Um, I am kind of clumsy at times so this advice may have only been for me.
But I always watch YouTube to see what I can fix myself. Right now I am trying to figure out how to fix my iron and HEPA filter. I hate recycling them.
Just in case you can help me, the iron’s temperature knob is loose and the HEPA filter is squeaking despite the installation of a new filter.
I even mend my own clothes. My sister kids me about my T-shirts. If they don’t have holes, I still wear them.
Lesson #3–Buy Value not Junk
He also taught me to buy value and not junk. He said value lasts much longer than junk so you don’t need to keep buying. His clothes and stuff he owned were impeccable.
He used to get mad if me if he found my car was a mess. Owning something was a privilege and you should take care of it.
I always buy used furniture not only because the toxic chemical issues but because I look for quality that no longer exists (in my humble opinion.) Have you ever looked at how your grandma’s furniture was made?
I am not a hoarder or a junk collector. I dislike clutter immensely since it makes me uneasy. (That’s why I have had a couple of challenges on the blog for purging here here, and here. I sell, giveaway, reuse, or recycle what I can. He taught me to clean and keep my surroundings neat.
Whenever he came to visit me in college or law school, I made sure my room or apartment was clean as a pin. (And my car too.)
Lesson #4–Value Family
Lastly, he taught me how to value family. I attend every family function far and wide and never miss a function for my children. My favorite times is spending alone time with my immediate family. As the boys get older, we make a point to go away once or twice a year together as a family.
His love was a quiet one. He wasn’t the kind that told you how much he loved you or showered you with words of praise. But, I knew he loved me.
He hugged me when he saw me and when I left. He cried when I got married and whispered in my ear at each child’s bar mitzvah how proud he was of me.
He cherished his wife, my stepmother and his dogs. (My mom died in 1989.) They were his children after we had grown.
At his funeral, my stepbrother remarked that my Dad taught him 8 fatherly lessons:
1. Love and nurture your family
2. Cherish your wife …always
3. Do your best with what you have
4. Take care of your things
5. Don’t complain
6. Keep trying
7. Dance at parties
8. It’s ok to give your dog table scraps
Sounds just like my Dad.
I miss you, Dad.
Forever in my heart,
Your dutiful daughter (and farmer.)
Join the Conversation:
What life lessons do you carry with you from your parents?
Photo by Derek Bridges