Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things my father taught me

"It is a wise father that knows his own child." -- William Shakespeare

It's Father's Day today. My father died in 1985. I think of him often, but there's something about Father's Day that was special when he was alive and is still special today. For me, it was always a way to say "Thank you" to a man that I both loved and feared. I would make him a card with my crayons when I was a kid and later would give him a card and a present.

My father was a man of few words and didn't talk about feelings. We didn't have those fatherly chats that I've read about. But I learned a number of things from him that I am thankful for. I want to share some of those with you on this Father's Day.

My father taught me how to care for a large vegetable garden growing in the backyard. He loved to grow vegetables. He would till up the soil, plant tomatoes, beans, corn, and strawberries. I would help him put the seeds in the ground. It was my job thereafter to weed and water the plants. From doing this I learned responsibility.

My father taught me how to fish and feel at home on the water. He was quite a fisherman. He always had a boat, and we would get up early to be able to hit the water on the last of ebb tide. He showed me how to bait my hook, wait for the fish to bite and then set the hook. My father taught me how to run the boat and to watch the signs that the water gave that shoals were ahead. From watching and waiting for fish and tide I learned patience.

My father taught me about monetary values. I was given a weekly allowance but was not allowed to spend it freely. I was told to put some of it aside so that it would accumulate into a larger sum. I was taught to think about what I spent money on and to not buy things that wouldn't last. My father would not loan money to others, but he would loan tools and give away fish and vegetables to neighbors and friends. From this, I learned appreciation of what I had, and about charity.

My father taught me to tell the truth. He had a suspicion that I was taking his cigarettes and smoking them with my cousin when I was around 7 years old. He asked me if I had stolen them and was smoking. I told him that I had. He lectured me but told me that I did right by telling the truth because my punishment would have been worse had I not. He told me that he couldnt' stand a liar. From him, I learned about honesty.

My father taught me that actions speak louder than words. He wasn't a "windbag". He would listen to what others had to say and then make his own decisions. He said that there were a lot of people who could talk their way out of anything but it was their deeds that were important. I learned the importance of doing.

My father taught me to care for animals and to love them. The few times I saw him cry were when an animal died or was hurt. He once took my cat to the medical doctor to get a fish hook out of her mouth. There was no vet in town at the time. "Mama cat" became a star and was written up in the local paper. From him, I learned about empathy.

My father taught me to stand up for myself. He never let people walk all over him. And he wasn't afraid to speak his mind if provoked. He didn't like injustice to people or animals. He didn't look down on people but treated everyone he met fairly, unless they proved to be unfair. From him, I learned about fairness.

And I know that there were many other life lessons that I learned from my father. All of these things he taught me have shaped me. The lessons that we learn as children color our life. I hope that the fathers out there realize the importance of that.


  1. Absolutely fantastic post. I learned many of the same things you did from my dad. I am now a dad to 2 boys, 5 & 7. I am constantly thinking about how I am parenting them. It can be very draining at times for me, but it is something I wouldn't trade for anything in the universe. It is the greatest role I will ever play in life and I love it.

  2. A beautiful remembrance and it proves what we say in the program, words mean nothing if they are not backed up by actions. He sounds like a remarkable father.

  3. Great post. My dad also died about the same time as yours. Suicide, unfortunately. However, after this many years and where I have come to, I can be at peace today and know that he did the best his capabilities allowed, but was flawed. He didn't do his stuff to me, I just happened to be there. He was a brilliant and creative man on his good days, and I have much of him within me.

    Happy Father's day,'s ok, I'm ok.

  4. Thanks for letting us know where you sincere,honest,caring nature came from. The man you are does him justice.

  5. You know Syd, this is beautiful. However, I sense a little sadness.

  6. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post with us Syd. Putting it all out there and available to any passing stranger's critique is brave. Thanks for that.

    Your father sounds wonderful. I am sure you carry him with you and do his memory proud.

  7. Very nice, Syd. Nice that you can come up with such a long list of pluses from your dad even though you did fear him. I feel the same way about mine. And my dad is the same way regarding animals. He'll tell anyone he likes them more than people. Dad's dog did pass on, by the way. He couldn't bring himself to put her down but when the east coast had that heat wave a few weeks ago, she passed away.

    I could stand to do my own "father grateful list."

  8. no matter what, certain things only father's can teach, whereas other's only mother's can. so complimentary. amazing ain't it. great tribute to your father there!

  9. Wonderful post Syd - your life's lesson's from your father are worthy of publishing in my opnion.


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