Sunday, June 21, 2009

Still Waters and All …

My Dad is a good man … and not just a "good man", but a great Good Man. He’s the original family man; for every decision he’s made he’s had his family in mind. We’ve always come first. With my Dad, it’s important to watch what he does, because he’s not particularly garrulous in his decision-making process. While my Mom is the soul of my family, my Dad is its heart … and the two of them together are bedrock.

When we were young, Dad wasn’t always a very talkative fellow … he’d give his opinion, and that was it. When he really thought one of us kids was making a big mistake, he’d let us know exactly why, exactly what he thought would happen, and exactly what he thought we should do instead. His almost-mantra was along the lines of, “Don’t do it … I already did it and it didn’t work” or “I know what you’re thinking, but you’re missing the point.”

It took long years for me to realize he wasn’t just talking smack … my Dad really had already done it. There’s nothing like getting to that age when you understand you’re not the first person on Earth (or even in your family) to have thought of whatever it is you’ve decided to implement, and that maybe, just maybe, the guy who came before you has an understanding of not only where you’re planning on going, but also where you’ve been.

And he can fix anything. Cars, appliances, electronics, buildings … you name it. He says these days the cars have him beat, with all their computerization … but not really. And he can teach himself how to do anything: construction, roofing, picture framing, design, etc. He’s worked jobs he did not enjoy, for miserable bosses (from whom he took huge rations of pooh), during long thankless hours and holidays … all for the good of his family. You may remember from my Mother’s Day blog that Mom and Dad ensured we had these incredible family vacations to all points New England during a time when they didn’t have much of anything (back when “yachting” wasn’t just a rich man’s pastime).

Those were great times. He’d teach us various things about sailing, geography, fishing, wildlife, ocean life, games ... we’d play board games, word games, and made-up family games while underway, getting to where we were going. I think the greatest gift Mom and Dad gave us with this family time was the gift of slowing down. You don’t get anywhere fast on a sailboat … not even in rough weather. And back then was before this digital age, so most entertainment was of a physical and interactive nature: swimming, spinnaker flying, hiking, collecting stones and seashells, picking berries, fishing, digging for clams, feeding wildlife, conversing, telling stories, star-gazing … you know, living.

Dad’s got this tremendous work ethic, too … if he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it right, and with expedience. If he tells you he’ll do something, then he gets it done … and if he feels he did it wrong, he’ll do it over again until he’s satisfied that he’s done it right. He and Mom, by dint of example, have instilled the same in us kids, from which our various employers have benefited a great deal over the years. He and Mom retired early to circumnavigate the world (which they did … awesome!) … but didn’t remain retired when they were done and back in the U.S. They didn’t have to work, but they both did, to fund various items, adventures, toys, and circumstances (part of Dad taking care of the family: ensuring the mortgage was paid off and the renovation was complete, among other things). In fact, Dad has just retired again, for fourth (?) and (with any luck) final time … almost twenty years after the first time!

Dad’s not into much of what you’d call frivolity, but he knows how to have a good time: he doesn’t watch serialized television programming, although enjoys movies and has a definite appeal for the unexplained … he doesn’t read fiction, but has an extensive non-fiction library he’ll loan out to anyone who expresses an interest … he can converse for hours, with anyone, on a variety of fascinating topics. Dad gives his full attention to what’s going on, too … whether it’s helping my big brother with design work for his business, or my niece learning her lines for a Summer play, or my other big brother with boating questions, or me with job stuff, or one of his many friends with various mechanical emergencies … you always know he’s right there with you.
And Dad definitely is not a black and white kind of guy; he sees the shades of gray. He’s not a knee-jerk reactionary either. He puts a lot of thought into making decisions, and puts much effort into seeing all the way around an issue to the other side (a trait that comes in particularly handy in these days of zero tolerance, economic hardship, and terrorist fears).
He sets the bar high, and leads by example.

There’s not a big event in my life I can’t run by Dad and about which I don’t get terrific insight and advice … he thinks so far outside the box that I think in, he’s invaluable. And he’s got this unshakeable faith in the abilities of his wife, kids, and grandkids. It’s incredible. It’s just there, a fact, no doubts, no question … that’s pretty cool. As with Mom, I can’t recall when our father-daughter relationship changed from strictly adult-child to adult-adult, but I give thanks for it every day, as well as the fact that we’re people who just really like and enjoy one another. So have a fantastically wonderful Father’s Day, Dad … I love you!

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