It's father's Day. Another one of those "first withouts" I have to get through since my father passed away. So far there's been my first birthday without my dad, the first anniversary of his birthday without him here to sing to, the first anniversary with neither of my parents here to celebrate what would have been 70 years of marriage. And now the first father's day without a father.
I've cried enough during the past week that surprisingly I don't feel like crying today. His not being here today doesn't feel much different than his not being here yesterday. I haven't quite figured out why, but some days I'm just a big ball of tears wrapped up in snotty tissues, other days life feels livable. There does not seem to be a pattern that I can discern yet. Maybe it will come.
The radio station I listened to this week had a contest where you call up and give a piece of advice your father gave you and maybe win a big prize. I never called but I did think about what advice I might relate. There are some Lutherisms that I can clearly hear him saying on a daily basis. There are others that pop into my head when I least expect them. Like, "girls shouldn't climb ladders." That's the one that has been playing lately. To be fair, he never actually said, "Girls" shouldn't climb ladders. He simply made it clear that if there was any ladder-climbing to be done it needed to wait until someone of the male persuasion (and preferably younger than 40) - Paul, John, Josh, Adam, Todd, etc - was around to do it. There is something so sexist about the whole ladder climbing thing that I feel like getting a ladder right now, climbing to the top of the roof with a leaf blower and letting her rip as I trod carefully over the shingles. But here's the thing, which I would never ever had admitted to my dad, climbing ladders scares me. Not the going up but the coming down. There is a rickety old wooden ladder that Johnson has been standing on to paint the bathroom ceiling. I tried it last week and decided I'd much rather use the step stool. It's not that I don't know how to climb a ladder, or shouldn't climb one, for me it's all about not wanting to. But then maybe if Dad were still here I'd feel differently.
Then there's another Dad saying, "if you can't do something right, don't do it at all." Here's what I heard ... if you can't be perfect you're not good enough, therefore, since I'm not perfect, I'm not good enough. Now I suspect if my father knew I felt that way he'd say, first of all, "I never said that," to which I'd have to raise my voice and fuss about because there is a little man on my shoulder who looks and sounds exactly like my father who is forever saying that and I didn't make it up. Secondly, he'd tell me I'm too sensitive. As the relatively new person in charge of fixing things up around the house, I've seen several places where my father let perfection (or my interpretation of perfection) slide, so maybe what he meant to tell me was "do your best." That has a much nicer ring to it, don't you think?
Almost right up until the day he couldn't talk anymore my father tried to instill in me sound financial principles. I don't know why or where it came from, but when the conversation turns to money I shrivel into an insecure doofus. It's no wonder he worried about me. Sometimes I worry about me. What I have to believe is this. Just because I don't approach things the way my father did doesn't make him right and me wrong. It doesn't make him smart and me stupid. It just makes us different. Not to be denied, however, it made him richer than I'll ever be.
Here are some more of the wisdom I was raised on.
When words didn’t work, Luther used his own life as an example to teach us:
- Save for a rainy day.
- Family is everything.
- To pour pee out of a boot, read the directions on the heel.
- A job worth doing is worth doing well.
- Be prepared.
- Say your prayers.
- You can never have too many flashlights.
- Have your car serviced in the Spring and Fall whether it needs it or not.
- If you have a choice whether or not to throw something away - keep it, you never know when you might need it.
- Memories are what will ease your fears in your last days - make good ones.
- Be proud to be an American; respect the flag.
- To get over the loss of a favored pet, go right out and get another one.
- Turn out the lights, shut the door ... were you born in a barn?
- Measure twice, cut once.
- Guns don’t kill, people do.
- To the person standing in front of the TV -You make a better door than a window
- When it comes to exercise - just say no.
Today I'm grateful for my father. For the time we spent together. For the lessons he taught me. For the lessons I ignored.
I'm grateful for the house he gave me. A place full of memories. A place to call home.
I'm grateful for the family he presided over, sisters, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws.
I'm grateful for fathers in general. It's gotta be a hard job.
And I'm grateful there is nothing so important today that I have to climb a ladder to get it. (Not that I couldn't if I had to.)
Wishing for you time spent in the company of a father. If you don't have one borrow one for awhile. You're sure to learn something, even if it's a little dated!
[Photos: Great father's I have known:
Dad; Texas Jimmy; Johnson; Neeraj Mehta; Preston Belcher; Sweetie; Todd Green; Joe LaMonica]