"Now you just go on right ahead and turn around, brush your teeth, wash your face, pull your hair back, and put your house shoes on." Those were the first words I would hear from my father's mouth every Saturday morning, when the overwhelmingly good smell of homemade pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, and home fries would fill the house. The food would smell so good, I would just mosey right on into the kitchen, only to hear my father tell me to turn right back around and get myself together before breakfast. That's right. Daddy never believed in rolling out of the bed and shoving food into your mouth first thing in the morning: he believed we all should prepare and present ourselves well every single day, regardless of what plans we may or may not have had, and regardless of whom we planned or may not have planned to see. But this wasn't just a Saturday morning routine; this was a habit my father practiced in every part of his life, and it taught me so much about how to care for myself and others.
Since Father's Day is right around the corner, I figured this would be an appropriate time for me to share a few poignant life-lessons I learned from my father over the years. My father recently retired from the steel industry after over 50 years of service and hard work. I don't know about you, but I don't see this kind of work ethic anymore. Unfortunately, my father is part of a dying breed, but I am very fortunate to have had a front seat to his life, watching and listening to him every step of the way [even when he didn't think I was listening]. To this day, every single word that comes out of Daddy's mouth is at a maximum volume level because of the incredible noise of the grinders in the steel mill, but I just got used to it. He never much minds the heat either, as he once told me that the furnaces were so hot in the mill, he could only stay in there for 12-minute intervals and would lose about eight pounds a day working in the furnace. That explains his big appetite! With all of that being said...my father really is the King of making things up, but somehow, he is always right! Daddy has taught me so many life-lessons, I have literally lost count, but here are three I think you can apply to your own lives and even those of your children:
1. Always finish what you started:
I know I told you my father is the King of making things up, but he is also the King of Projects! Have you ever known someone who would start project after project, but those projects would never actually be completed? Well, my father is the exact opposite. When he starts a new project, it may take him quite a while to reveal his finished product, but he always finished what he started. As a kid, my father would just go around building things. He built chairs, cabinets, tables, book shelves, and even finished off the basement in his home! He repaired cars, built flower beds around the yard, and just always had something on the schedule to keep him busy.
I will never forget the day I came home and told my father I needed to build a car for my physics project. At first I thought he would be a little annoyed, but I think he was even more excited about the project than I was! Daddy took me downstairs to what we called his "Work Shop" and started pulling things off of the shelves. He took apart his old pair of roller skates, handed me the four wheels, and said, "Here you go. Go ahead and build your car!" Yes. He really left me there, BY MY LONESOME, to build a car from parts of an old pair of roller skates. Really, Dad? I toyed around with a bunch of his STUFF and random things from his tool box, but I got fed up and moved on to something else. When Daddy found out I had left my incomplete physics project downstairs in the Work Shop to collect dust, he had a few words to share with me. Next thing I knew, there was a knock on my door, and of course, it was my father. The only thing from that conversation I remember was him saying, "Do you want an A on this project? Don't ever let me see you do that. You finish what you started." I think you get the picture, right? Daddy never had to tell me that again. And you better believe--I ALWAYS finish what I've started! Oh...and I got and A on that physics project!
2. Never mind what other people think about you:
I am sure you've heard it before, "what other people think about you doesn't matter." Well, this was a recurring lesson in my house growing up. My parents always made sure to remind us that the opinions of others had no bearings over our lives. My mother would always tell us to live to please God, not our friends. She was absolutely right! Anyway...it all started in kindergarten at Sharon Christian Academy. I used to LOVE school! I had the best friends, my teachers were awesome, I sang in the school play, and life was just dandy! One day, my mother had taken my sisters and I to school, and when it was time for recess that day, I ran over to my best friend to see if she wanted to play. Unbeknownst to me, she had had a conversation with her mother the night before about who it was "okay" for her to play with. My best friend looked over at me and said, "My mom said I can't play with you anymore because you're mixed."
Okay...so...that was like nearly 30 years ago, so I have no idea what immediately followed, but I remember going home and telling my father what my so-called best friend had said to me at recess that day. You better believe my father went up to the school to handle business, but this is my first memory of Daddy telling me, "Never mind what she thinks about you." This situation repeated itself a few more times as I grew older, but my father was always there to remind me that the opinions of others really didn't matter. I know one thing, though: I kept on loving school, I kept on singing in the school plays, I kept on admiring my teachers, and life remained good thanks to my father. Take a lesson from my father and remember to never let the negative opinions of others diminish your happiness and positive outlook on life!
3. You know better, so DO better:
Now, I've definitely seen my father bend the rules every now and then, but he is a big fan of acting like you have some sense. I have made mistake after mistake after mistake through the years. In fact, I have a pile of mistakes somewhere I've been meaning to get rid of! But you guessed it! From one mistake to the next, Daddy's response was always, "Now, you know better." We won't take a stroll down Bad Choices Memory Lane, but I'll just tell you that I have racked up my fair share over the years, and yes...I've been punished for them ALL!
The reason this particular life-lesson is so near and dear to me is because this is something we always stumble with. When it came time to making that difficult decision--do I stay out and party all night, or do I study for my finals in the morning--I always heard that voice in the back of my head telling me, "Now, you know better," but I would act out anyway! I know I'm not alone here! I have since learned my lesson, but why was this always the case? Why did we always choose to do wrong when we KNOW we knew better? Who knows. I learned my lesson one day when I had been caught skipping school!! Doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was for this girl who wanted to graduate with honors and had racked up a full schedule of Advanced Placement classes! My buddies tried to cover for my one day, but when the principal came looking for me for skipping detention for being late, I was in a heap of trouble, and of course the school didn't call my mother; oh no...they called MY FATHER! I'm still grounded to this day, by the way. And I actually think Daddy had to tell me, "Now, you know better," like last week, haha!
In short, my life would not be the same without an incredible father and mother to lead the way. Thank you, Daddy, for being an immaculate example of a father. I am doing my best to teach my boys what you have taught me, but heck...I might as well just send Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 up there with you for the summer! You and mommy can just teach them first-hand! Happy Early Father's Day to all of the great fathers and father figures!! A special shout-out goes to my wonderful husband and better-half. We appreciate you!