From My Father

From My Father

The importance of a good work ethic, the importance of proper education, and how the two grow relatively inseparable. Our intelligence is directly tied into what we can accomplish, therefore the more that we know, the easier it becomes to achieve. My father works long and laborious hours, sacrificing his own personal time in order to be certain myself and my sisters had (and have) everything we could need or want. What little time he had left to himself was often spent taking us to events, spending quality time with us, and ensuring we were happy. Having been the only child on his side of the family until my 11th birthday, my father focused on me and made an impression. Since as far back as I can remember he has always tried to share his knowledge on how different devices and mechanisms work. When I got my first car, I didn’t know how to change the oil, so my father taught me. When I needed to get new rotors and brakes on my car because I had driven it to the point where I was actually eating at the rotors with the brake pads completely worn away, my father taught me how to change them. When we needed to remodel my little sisters room and build a closet in my room, my father taught me. At each point that I can remember in my life that I didn’t know something and he grokked it, he shared with me and oversaw that I at least understood the concept. He has always been generous with knowledge and freely states without shame when he does not know something (at least in this respect). This is yet another great lesson: When you do not know, Admit it. I can’t say that I’ve always adhered to the idea, or even that my father does in all scenarios, but the truth is it is better to pretend you don’t know when you do, rather than pretend you do know when you don’t. This conflicts with the premise of “fake it till you make it”, but of course, all things in moderation.

Respect for your elders, even when they may be wrong. This one took me a while to get right, as you’ll learn how to best correct those older than you as you attempt to incorporate this lesson. Among the best advice I can give on the subject, asking “what” instead of “how” or “why”; ex: “What led you to think this?” Rather than “Why do you think this?” Or “How can you think this?”.

Always laugh and be courteous to others until they give you a reason not to be. My father is not rude to others, nor does he laugh at the misfortunes others have. To this day, he does not laugh at drunkards in the street, and has corrected me even as recent as this past year when dealing with them in public. You have nothing to gain from laughing at the misfortune of others. You also have nothing to gain in taking out your personal feelings on strangers. Regardless what is going on with him, or with our family, my father has always been courteous to strangers. The exception to this rule is as follows:

Do not ally yourself with people who are not genuine. My father has counted very few people his friends, and for this I am grateful to him. It helped show me the value of friendship and how rare a true friendship is. In my youth, I believed myself to know what this meant and was wrong. He had no problem letting me know the realities of life in this respect, even if he withheld other truths for my own sake. Some people will screw you over, and when they do, you don’t get even. Your best course of action then is to just get away, and learn to make peace with it. The willingness to get back at someone, the drive to do others harm will only eat away at you in the end, and will make it so that your joy is consistently ruined by the anger you’ve held onto. In making peace with these situations, you’ll help prepare yourself for the harder part of being screwed over. When people deserve second chances, you’ll know, and if they don’t, you’ll also know.

My father has always treated our animals with care, treated them with respect and trained them to know their boundaries. We have always shared table-scraps with our pets, as far back as I can remember. The animals have always known not to come up to the table, only allowed what is given and never to take what isn’t handed to them. The only exception is our current cat Kali, who actually smacks you on the leg for food because she believes she is a dog. All our other dogs have known they are to patiently wait, and if they’re not receiving scraps a simple “No, go lay down” usually does the trick. My father has never made an animal sit by without giving them a reward; in this I’ve learned that if you are in command, you must not toy with the idea of a reward. It is not right to tease others with what they do not have, and it is both admirable and becoming of us to share what we can with others.

If it is within your power to help others, then you should. Do not think this means you should spend all your time committing to favors for others; it isn’t. Another thing to keep in mind is that in the event that you do this, whatever compensation you are given is a welcome gift; do not ask for more than what was given, and don’t speak of it. If you’re willingly helping someone, then you should be helping them and not expecting a reward in return. That is the definition of a good deed. To do for someone else without the expectation of any reward or praise, or the need to flaunt what you have done for them. Once you try to call upon the good you have done in the past as if it is a voucher for something you want in the present, you’ve nullified any good your deed once held.

Cleanliness is important (and this is “a do as I say, not as I do” moment). My grandmother was a very neat woman, and my father wanted the level of cleanliness she always demanded, even if he isn’t always as clean himself. Organization is vital, even if only you understand it. It is not becoming to sleep in late or stay up late; early to bed and early to rise. I am unfortunately just recently beginning to grasp this concept at 28, it would’ve served me much better a decade ago. For those of us working the night shift, those after-hours drinks shouldn’t prevent you from getting up in time to get anything done before your next shift.

There is no shame in being a sentimental creature. No man is weaker for sharing his love with the world, but there is also no need to flaunt your affections and cheapen their power. When you say “I love you” too often, it becomes weaker. Save it for goodbyes, and the moments that count. Never hang up the phone with a loved one without saying it. This bleeds out into all other relationships I’ve had with loved ones.

When you are doing wrong, ensure that you admit you are doing wrong. It is worse to declare you’ve done nothing wrong when you have, than to simply admit you’ve done wrong and see through it’s correction. My father never wanted me to smoke, and told me from the earliest age that even when I was old enough, I shouldn’t, because it wasn’t good for him. I didn’t listen, of course. I snuck cigarettes until my mid-20’s and eventually he found out as parents always do. He respected that I made a choice and just said “you should quit now, while it’s easy”, so I did. Admittedly, I do occasionally have a smoke when I’m drinking with friends, but it’s serious progress after having rolled my own for a few years and sneaking into the yard for a smoke when my parents had fallen asleep. In this I understood something about my father: he respected me enough to let me decide, but he made his view known without conflict or exerting some authority over me. That’s all you can do with the adults in your life, and anything beyond that would be grounds for conflict.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my father, is to let your parents call you by the nickname they gave you as a child. It is yours and yours alone, and should forever be a mark of honor and power for you. No matter how old I get I will always be “little man” to my father and there isn’t anything in this world that can take that from either of us. What’s the story behind your childhood nickname? What great lessons do you know you drew from your parents, whether by example of what to do, or by what not to do? Share in the comments and let me know, I’d love to hear from you all.

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