Friday, June 18, 2010

In Honor of Father's Day

My Dad and I haven't always gotten along. We've butted heads a lot over the years. He hasn't been a perfect father, but we're well matched - I haven't always been the perfect kid, either. But I've come to realize that he's always done the best he could and he's always tried. In some ways, I think that's more important than perfection. Last year, I wrote a tribute piece for my Dad in honor of his retirement party. Since Father's Day is coming up, I thought I'd re-post it.


Over the years I’ve learned a lot of things from my dad – for instance, if you want to get a malfunctioning boat motor to work better, you swear at it. A lot. For the record, this also works for computers and sewing machines. I can’t tell you how often I’ve cursed out a piece of machinery while fondly remembering childhood fishing trips.

In addition to a really colorful vocabulary, I’ve learned some others things from him along the way. Like most important things in life, those bits of wisdom didn’t come with flashing neon arrows pointing to them and signs that said, “Hey dumbass, this is important. Pay attention.” These bits of wisdom arrived in everyday conversion, and in true to cliché fashion, I didn’t realize I was learning anything until much later.

Every summer, Dad would take me, Tim and Grandma on a week-long fishing trip to Boot Lake in the UP. Inevitably, Tim would cast his line over Grandma’s, trying to fish where she was because she was catching them and he wasn’t. Dad always said the same thing. “Fish can swim.”

At the time, I remember thinking, “Well yeah...they’re fish. That’s kinda what they do,” and completely missing the point. Fishing requires work and patience. A lot of patience, but the end result is usually worth it – much like anything else worth doing. If you give up before you’re finished with something, you never know the satisfaction of having completed it. If you take too many shortcuts, you’re likely to miss out on something important. So yeah – fish can swim – be patient and enjoy the journey while you’re waiting for them to bite. Your time will come.

I was once asked about the most memorable piece of advice I’d ever gotten from my Dad. I didn’t have to think hard or long – it just popped into my head. “You can always use a good piece of rope.” The person looked at me like I was insane – in fact, she said, “What the hell kind of advice is that.”

I can’t tell you how often I heard that phrase growing up – probably because there was always something that needed tying down or fixing. I’m positive that there were plenty of times he would have liked to tie down us kids.

This past winter the lock on my trunk froze and I couldn’t close the stupid thing. I couldn’t drive with it unlatched, because it kept flying up and obscuring my vision. I wished I’d had a good piece of rope. Instead, the only thing I could find was a lousy piece of lavender embroidery floss and let me tell you, even quadrupled, it doesn’t come close to a good piece of rope.

As I stood there in the freezing sleet, I realized several things. A.) Dad was right – you really always can use a good piece of rope. B.) The good piece of rope is just about the perfect metaphor – with the right tools for the job, you can pretty much accomplish anything.

My dad has almost always had the right tools for the job and if he didn’t, he knew who he could barrow them from. Most importantly he always got the job done. Now Dad, it’s your job is to relax and let the fish swim. However, it’s probably a good idea to keep a good piece of rope handy.

11 comments:

Susilien said...

Bron, I love your story about learning from your Dad so much that I have decided to share a bit about my Dad.

The best advice I ever received from my father wasn’t something that he said, it was what he still does, and why he does it.

When my father was in his late twenties, and working for the sheriff’s department another employee became disabled. He was let go by the sheriff’s department and told to apply for disability retirement. The sheriff’s office didn’t know that it had to be approved by the state before he could leave his employment. Because of these problems the gentlemen died before he and his family could get his disability approved. My dad paid attention. He saw that he could be doing something to help others.

For nearly four decades my father has attended most of the Public Employee Retirement System monthly meetings in our state, so that he could be informed enough to help other people when they needed that information to either receive disability or regular retirement. He has also worked with the state to inform the county, city and other public employers of the needs of their employees when difficulties such as these arise.

To this day, my father who is now disabled and incredibly stubborn will use the time and energy that he does have to help other people who need advice on how to apply for retirement. He has missed a few months here and there for health reasons, but never more than two months in a row.

After the first few years our state paid for his gas down and back so that he could be a free consultant to anyone in the state, since the downturn in the economy, he is still doing it but paying for the gas out of his very limited fixed income.

He says he still does it because it makes him feel like he can still contribute.

In many ways he is annoying and stubborn, but in others, he is my hero.

Mia Watts said...

I loved this post the first time and I still love it. Your dad is also very awesome. He's still like if you sit and watch him long enough, something important will come out of his mouth... and I don't mean his teeth. :)

My Dad had a few too: 1. Do it right the first time, or get used to doing it wrong over and over again. 2. A Bored person is a boring person. 3. If it's not working, apply "elbow grease" (which means, try harder and don't give up) 4. If he's being a jerk while you're dating, don't marry him because he screwed up the wooing part when he's TRYING to impress you. 5. Righty tighty, lefty loosey... :)

Kris Norris said...

Hey Girl,

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the 'good piece of rope,' advice. Indeed, words all erotic romance novelists should take to heart, though I'm sure you dad didn't mean for the rope to be put to such unique purposes.

But it's true. Many a time I've had to jerry-rig something to hold it in place. A task easily accomplished by a good piece of rope.

By dad taught me not to leave the house without a screwdriver and wrench...and that's wrench, with an 'r' not wench, though I'm sure that's the advice he gave my brother.

And I can tell you I've had to learn the lesson the hard way...walking my bike four miles out of the trails because the tire has fallen off... I would've killed for that wrench.

I think it's funny how we just nod our heads when we're young, only to realize later, it meant so much more. Happy Father's Day to your dad and here's hoping he has many many more to come.

hugs,
Kris

Anna Mayle said...

Thank you Bron, for sharing that with us. Your father sounds like a wise and wonderful man. The way you described him, he reminds me of my uncle Bill so I'd guess he's probably stubborn as a mule too, but in the best of ways.

I read somewhere once that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad. That is so very true.

My father, who actually aided in my creation, is a horrible man. He beat my brothers and I down with words and humiliation instead of fists, stole everything from our house while we were out camping when he divorced my mother, and poisoned us with horse tranquilizers once because we were being too loud. I was nine, the oldest child and desperately working to keep my brothers out of his sites. That Father taught me how to protect people and that I need to be a guardian to my loved ones, and that evil comes with many faces and 'safe as houses' is not safe at all.

Now my Dad, he hasn't given any outright advice, I was too old when my mom remarried for him to attempt to advise me (his words) but he did introduce me to Emerson Lake and Palmer and showed me that David Bowie is not just the hot guy in 'Labyrinth'. He dressed as Tinkerbell with glitter in his long curled and tangled hair and red longjohns under the tutu to pick me up from High School on Halloween since I'd gone to class in costume and he worried that no one else had. He took time off work to drive all the way to Lansing when I was in college and freaking out over a math test when I couldn't grasp the material, and didn't get mad when I still only got a 55%. He showed me what a dad could be.

You know, he did give me one bit of advise, he told me "Never learn a song the wrong way or you'll have a Hell of a time making it right again."
Come to think of it, that applies to a lot more than music and pitch. That sneak advice giving so and so. hahaha

Happy Father's Day Bron, I hope you and your family have a great time. And don't forget to bring a good piece of rope along, just in case.

Margaret Yang said...

Awesomesauce.

Chris said...

*is pleased about the wide selection of bungee cords in trunk of her car*

chocoaddict said...

I'm seeing so many lessons learned from dads, both positive and negative. Like you Bronwyn, I was lucky to have one of the good ones. He had three major lessons for us:

1. Be proud of you you are
2. Be happy with what you have
3. Never settle for anything less than your very best effort.

Happy Father's Day to all the great dads!

Anonymous said...

I recall it clearly...he said "Don't marry that jerk!" Of course, I ignored that advice. I know he was right, because hindsight is 20/20, but if I had listened and done the 'right' thing, I wouldn't have my three wonderful kids. But, Dad, if you're listening, YOU WERE RIGHT!

Fran Lee said...

My Dad told me to do what has to be done, live life the best you are able, and never accept other's opinions as the law. Learn to believe in yourself.

Lisabet Sarai said...

What a wonderful post, Bron,

My dad died two and half years ago, and I miss him daily. I'm sure he gave me advice, but I think he taught me a great deal more with his behavior. He read constantly. He was always eager to meet new people (and usually charmed them). He loved to dance. When he was in his late seventies he was still taking courses (forensics; microbiology; Arabic!) He never stopped living and learning, right up to the time of his death.

I know he had lots of sayings, but the only one that comes to mind right now is: "Somebody's got to pick the cotton." The implication being that maybe you would rather it not be you, and thus you should take steps to find a more enjoyable and less effortful way to make your living.

Thanks for sharing.

Hugs,
Lisabet

Bronwyn Green said...

@ Susilien - Your dad sounds amazing. I love that he's so willing to help others despite the difficulty of doing so.

@ Mia - Your dad is a wise man. Number four is particularly important!

@ Kris - I can't tell you how many times I nodded my head/rolled my eyes only to wish I'd listened.

@ Anna - Oh he's definitely stubborn, all right. I'm sorry your biological father is such a nightmare, but I'm not sorry you're here. :) And I'm thrilled that you had the benefit of a really great dad.

@ Margaret - Thank you honey. You've got one of the greatest dads I know. :)

@ Chris - I was very grateful for the good pieces of rope in my trunk the other day! :D Far less grateful when Mitchell makes lassos out of them and trying to capture mailboxes.

@ chocoaddict - I think your dad had fabulous lessons. I love them all, but especially number two.

@ Anonymous - I bet your dad would have thought your kids were worth it. :)

@ Fran - A very wise man. :)

@ Lisabet - I'm so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing man. :)

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