As we approach Father's Day, I want to share some of my dad's wisdom and the things he enjoyed. I would love to hear from you with thoughts that honor your father figures.
Although both my parents were excellent writers, and both were sticklers for grammar and punctuation, my father was the one with the more expansive vocabulary. By the time I was seven or eight years old, I had learned to "ponder" and "ruminate."
I learned to spend only what I have. Other than a mortgage, buying on credit was unheard of to my father. He saved for cars and appliances and paid cash for them. Imagine what he saved in lending fees.
When I learned he'd had lunch with a business associate he didn't like, I asked why. "Always break bread with your enemies," he responded.
My father loved classical music and opera. By the time I was in first grade, he had taught me to recognize The Nutcracker, the Blue Danube waltz, the William Tell overture, the Sleeping Beauty waltz and the aria from Pagliacci. That last one, now that I think about it, was a weird opera to tell a kid about, even if it did involve clowns.
"Respect your elders." Many parents say it, but my dad lived it. He knew everything about the older members of our family and extended family, and he often visited with them.
Measure twice, cut once. My father owned a hardware store before I was born, so I learned more about tools (and less about cooking) than most little girls.
Hardware stores were an experience we shared. He would amuse himself with the latest gadgets, while I would stay in the plumbing aisle and build things out of pieces of pipe and fittings.
Construction was another favorite theme. We would often visit new home sites, and he would explain to me the fine points of beams and foundations. When a freeway went in behind our home, we'd walk over every evening to assess the crew's progress.
There is nothing to be gained from swearing, he told me. I didn't follow his example on that one.
Dancing! My dad used to frequent the clubs of his day, and he loved to dance. Waltz. Jitter bug. You name it. Although I'm not "light on my feet" (his term), I love to dance. And I have yet to find a polka partner to match my father.
My father was trained as an engineer, although he also had a career in finance. I inherited the engineering gene. I have his passion for knowing how things work. I am also as stubborn in wanting to fix things myself.
"It's just a matter of deduction," he often said. It was a simultaneous lesson in problem-solving and the Holmes canon.
"Don't go chasing after windmills," he said. But he did.
"Where is your spirit of adventure?" What better challenge to give a child? At family reunions, my cousins and I would follow my dad on hikes. He seemed to be the only adult in the family who loved nature enough to get lost in it. When we came out of the woods, we were sweaty and covered with bug bites, but we had learned about algae in ponds, the names of trees and the sounds of birds.
Lipizzaner stallions. He took me to see them perform when I was five. When I was 55, I visited the breeding farm in Lipica, Slovenia.
My father never thought about being famous, but he was well liked. He worked and saved, but he knew the real treasures in life could not be bought.
My father went to every funeral of everyone he knew. When I asked why, he explained that honoring the dead was the best way to honor the living.
When my dad died, a friend of his gave me a poem by William Arthur Ward. I read it at his funeral, and I keep it in a special place:
Blessed is the man
To whom his work is a pleasure,
By whom his friends are encouraged,
With whom all are comfortable,
In whom a clear conscience abides, and
Through whom his children see God.
We should all be so blessed.