– by Michael!
Somehow, I got to write both the Father’s and Mother’s Day posts this year. So enjoy.
This past Sunday, my dad and I didn’t get to talk much. He was busily ferrying the family back from Greenville, SC where they had traveled to hear my wife sing in GLOW’s Don Pasquale. (And yes, I’m into shameless plugging of events that already happened. I’m that cool. Let it go.) I called to wish him a happy Father’s Day (thanks), ask how the drive was going (fine), ask how the performance was (enthusiastic ten-minute rant). Then he got close enough to Atlanta that he needed to pay attention and we said goodbye.
As I hung up, I thought about my father. And in particular, I thought about how weird our relationship is. We’re neither of us terribly traditional in the “father-son” roles, and there’s a pretty big laundry list of things we didn’t do together growing up.
We may have thrown a baseball around once. Once. Maybe. I don’t think it lasted long. It was hot and the air conditioner felt good.
We never went fishing.
We never restored a car. Or a lawnmower. I honestly think restoring a Hot Wheel might be beyond my father’s mechanical capacity – I am certain that it is beyond my own.
I learned how to throw a football from a friend, how to use power tools from being in theater, and how to throw a punch from Bruce Lee movies.
Dad and I just never did a lot of the typical dad-son things. We did a few. Yard-work comes to mind, and I was definitely always involved in the “family business.” But for the most part we pretty much forged our own father-son trail.
And you know what? That’s ok. Because what I did learn from him…
He taught me that washing dishes is one of the many ways to tell somebody you love them.
He taught me that how much you love what you do with your life is infinitely more important than how much money you get from it.
He taught me that passion matters. Be passionate about your work and it will be meaningful – be passionate about your faith and it will transform you – be passionate about your family and they will cherish and respect you. (They’ll still make fun of you. You can’t stop that. They’re family. But the love is still there.)
He taught me how to enjoy standing up in front of strangers and talking to them. Or at them. Either way, being in front of people doesn’t have to be terrifying – just smile a lot and keep to the point and it’s actually rather fun.
He taught me that yes, you really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
And in the same vein, he taught me that being kind to people who aren’t kind to you is both possible and, quite often, hilarious. Try it. It annoys them to no end, which is frankly a good deal more gratifying than joining them in jerkishness.
He taught me that it’s ok for a grown man to cry, because the world is full of joy and sorrow and beauty and horror and these things, good and bad, should move you.
He taught me that it’s OK to admit being wrong. Especially when you’re married. Because you’re going to be, and often.
He taught me that, when something goes horribly wrong, assigning blame is a waste of time and energy. “Who screwed up” is of no immediate consequence. “Who’s going to fix it.” That’s what matters.
He taught me that a sense of humor is one of the most important things you can have. Ever. Even if your jokes are corny, love to laugh and you’ll be a happier person.
He taught me that it’s more important to be loving than to have the right answer. (OK, he tried to teach me this. I’m still learning it. But he got the ball rolling.)
He taught me how to be stubborn without being rude.
He taught me that being a good father doesn’t stop with your own kids, but extends to every child you meet. That you will meet – every day – some child who needs approval, a joke, a smile. That child may be five, fifteen, or fifty, but their need remains and you can always give it and your children will watch to see if you do. And learn from it.
And even more, being a good father extends a thousand-fold to those your children choose to share their lives and homes and families, and that driving through Atlanta on a weekend is a miniscule price to pay to show your daughter-in-law how proud you are of her and how glad you are that she’s part of your family.
The list goes on, and on, and on.
Someday I’ll be a dad. Not for a while yet, we’re not to that point, but I look forward to it. I hear that it will change my life, and I hear that I’m completely unprepared for it, and I know I should be afraid – but I honestly think I’ll be a pretty rockin’ dad.
I learned – and am still learning – from the best.