Many words from my father still echo in the passages of my mind. I hear them and heed them and find myself passing along their wisdom to my own daughter. Here are some of my favorites, just in time for Father’s Day. Thank you, Dad, for always creating your own excitement.
Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Say Your Prayers.
I still pray before sleeping, Dad, thanks to habits formed when I was young.
Rise and Be Dull.
This phrase became the standard wake-up announcement, spoken just after a horrible blast from an old Army trumpet and accompanied by a tug on my big toe. When I complained that I was too sleepy to shine, Dad told me to rise and “be dull.” The phrase stuck and has endured. My husband, my teenager, and I are very good at being dull right after we rise before we’ve had our coffee/tea/Dr. Pepper.
Think Before You Act.
I’ve written about this phrase before because it is so ingrained in the fabric of my being. Dad taught us to be cognizant of our behavior at all times, although he didn’t use the word cognizant. When we messed up, he asked us if we thought about it before we did it. Now I ask myself that question when I mess up as an adult. Behavior driven by emotions rather than rational thought leads to unwise choices and words spoken that can never be taken back.
Who Did It?
This question came up every time we messed up. It was a way to teach us the importance of owning — and learning — from our mistakes. Mistakes were okay the first time, as long as we did not repeat them. We gained no sympathy from my dad. On my first day of driving myself to school, I hit the car beside me when I backed out of the parking space. I drove home, called my dad, and told him: Dad, I did it. Then he made me get back in the car and drive to the girl’s house to make arrangements to pay to have her car repaired. He paid for the damages, and then I paid him back by serving him coffee. (He didn’t want me to have a job in high school because, in his eyes, learning academics to the best of my abilities was my job. And, for a time, so was serving him coffee!) The best thing to do when you mess up is to confess and make amends. Now I strive to teach my daughter the same lesson.
Sit On Your Hands.
Whenever we went anywhere that had potentially breakable items, or whenever we were fidgety, Dad made us sit on our hands. I can remember sitting on my hands in church, at my great-grandma’s house, and in the car when my brother and I poked each other too much. Now I sit on my hands as an adult — but only when I’m cold.
He’s Not Worth You…and He Has the Ambition of a Coffee Table
When I was a heartbroken teenager, Dad took my side and told me I was beautiful and smart and deserved someone who would treat me well. Anybody who didn’t appreciate me, didn’t deserve me, in Daddy’s opinion. I listened well to this advice. Now I am married to a man who also believes I am beautiful and smart and who treats me very well….and who has MUCH more ambition than the coffee table!
Keep It Between The Ditches
This very sage advice helped me along the way every time I got into the car. He still says it to me! And I do indeed strive to keep my car, and my life, between the ditches. Because driving into a ditch isn’t good for your car. Or so I’ve heard.
You’re Gonna Step on That Lip
Whine, whine, whine. Pout, pout, pout. Nowadays when I’m in a funk I think about stepping on my sad, droopy lip, and I smile.
Pull Yourself Up By The Bootstraps
Growing up, I didn’t know what bootstraps were, but I knew they had something to do with hard work. Dad taught us that any job was worthwhile, from collecting recyclable cans to sitting the boardroom…and, in his opinion, work that involved sweat was the best kind to have. He always told us that as long as we could collect cans along the highway, we could scrape out enough to get by. Honest, hard work is to be valued, and there is an intrinsic satisfaction derived from looking at what we build with our hands…whether it be a birdcage out of popsicle sticks or tackling and mastering Algebra in high school.
Mind Your Manners and Behave.
Dad said these words to us before we went anywhere…sleepovers, Grandma’s house, school…I guess they soaked in because I parrot them back to my daughter!
Listen to Your Momma.
In his wisdom, Dad knows that Momma knows best! She still does. Back in the day, her word was the final authority on everything that Dad knew nothing about. Like which dress to wear to church.
Beware of Magazines At Doctors’ Offices.
Dad and I share a desire to eradicate germs. While I’m the one who carries hand sanitizing gel in my purse and his fingers are apt to be coated in grease and grime from working on the lawn mower…neither of us will handle the magazines in doctors offices. Sick people go to the doctor, pick up magazines, and sneeze and cough all over them. Enough said.
I Love You.
Dad may be a man of few words, but the ones he does say speak volumes. He is gruff and tough on the outside, but there’s never been a doubt in my mind that he loves me because he tells me every time we talk. Here’s a sample phone conversation:
Dad: Hello (in his Texas accent, it sounds like Yell-low)
Me: Hi Dad! How’s it going?
Dad: Why do you sound like you’re talking down a tunnel?
Me: Because I’m on the cell phone again.
Dad: Oh. Well that explains it…here’s your mamma. I love you!
I love you, too, Dad. Thanks for making and shaping me into the woman I am today, and Happy Fathers Day!