Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lessons Learned From My Father

My relationship with my father has had many ups and downs throughout my life, but through it all he is still my dad. He's far from perfect and has never claimed to be, but I have learned a lot of life lessons from him that have proved invaluable.

1. You can have disagreements without having arguments

In all my life, my dad is the only person who I have ever been able to have an intelligent debate with. I really hate conflict. I mean real conflict that dissolves into name calling and resembles a verbal boxing match. They always seem to turn personal. Yeah yeah tell me all you want that you are just having an intelligent discussion, but I know the truth. My dad and I have discussed what would be considered "hot button" issues without throwing one verbal barb at each other, and we were on opposite sides. I think part of this is that my dad is one of the smartest people I know and he doesn't worry about being right all the time. He never changed my position once, but I could really understand his positions and why he believes what he does.

2. It Is Actions, Not Words That Matter

This has been a pretty easy lesson to learn because my dad is a man of few words. He has always put family first, even when I thought he didn't. He always worked more than one job to provide for his family. Even though my mom worked, she didn't have to. On holidays, he was always at work, either at the fire department or on the medical helicopter. That's just what he did. His job was saving lives and you can't schedule that 9 to 5. This may be where I got my insane need to help and serve others.

3. Bad Things Happen, Move On

Everyone has had bad things happen in their lives. My father is no exception. The difference is he doesn't let them define who he is. He just moves on and leaves the past in the past. He has taught me that you can be victimized, but you don't have to be a victim. And before you think it is easy for me to say something like that, I have had more than my share of terrible things happen to me. It takes effort to get past the pain, but if you dwell on the past you won't be able to enjoy the present.

4. No Matter What, We're Family

That's basically my dad in a nutshell. No matter what happens in life, we're family and we take care of each other. No matter what has gone on between us, we will stick together when times are tough. When I was at my lowest point and didn't know what to do, my dad stepped up and saved the day. He's always doing that even if you don't ask. And if you do ask, he won't turn you away. He will stand up for you no matter what. I am the same way with my kids and family. You have to go through me to get to my family. And God help you if you try. Actually you'll have to go through my dad to get to me. And you will definitely need God's help.

There are many more lessons I've learned from my dad, but that's all I've got right now. The top picture is probably my favorite of my dad and my son. I love the one below also. This sums him up to me. Once he became a grandfather, it was like he started his second life. He has always done everything for them and even though the girls are in high school and my son is an adult, he still loves to spend time with them. I love the pictures of my dad and my son because they have a special bond. He was the first grandchild and only grandson, so my dad has a different relationship to him than the others. Not better, but different. Boys are something else and my son is no exception. Watching him with my kids makes me look forward to possibly having some of my own in the future.

One important lesson I have tried to teach my son also came from my dad. It is the first part of my favorite quote of his. It is a man takes care of his family. My dad said this to me years ago when I was undergoing some hard times. He sat me down and said, "A man takes care of his family and _______ is not a man." It's not important who he was referring to, it is the first part of the sentence that counts. And that is my dad, not just a man but an amazing man.

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