Of Men and Fathers

Realizing that it is Father’s Day, I’ve been thinking of all the men who have been like fathers to me and all of the outside-the-book knowledge they have imparted. Of course, I immediately thought of my own dad who has always taught me vital life lessons including how to throw a baseball, how to change the oil in the car, the importance of involvement in your community and the difference between a screwdriver and a can opener.

He’s also shared with me many other important things over the years: how to draw a detailed map on the back of a napkin, how to identify the best restaurants in small towns by counting the number of pickup trucks in the parking lot, how no road trip is complete without a stop at every historical marker along the way and how to follow a television documentary, a NASCAR race and a John Wayne Western on television all at the same time.

I thought, too, of what I’ve learned from other men in my life. My uncles taught me that you’re never too old to have fun getting muddy, under no circumstance are you to sit in the recliner reserved for the man of the house (and I do mean NO circumstance), and how the quality of a barbecue sandwich is directly proportional to the distance traveled to obtain it.

Other men have had an impact on me also. My childhood neighbor once asked me on a January morning why I was still home from college. Did I need money for tuition? “No,” I explained. “Christmas break isn’t over yet.” I’m still touched by his offer, although I wonder now if maybe he was just trying to run me out of town.

Over the years I’ve been mentored by many of my own personal Yodas. There was a journalism instructor who made me more insightful through questions such as “Why are manhole covers round?” (the manholes are) and who shared his personal mantra of “If it’s cute, don’t do it.”

My high school agriculture instructor instilled in me the value that ignorance is not a virtue and that second place is like kissing your sister (nice, but no thrill).

Janitor Joe, a custodian in a building where I had my first “real” job, taught me that you could learn something from anyone and how kindness never gets you into trouble. He also shared the dangers of workplace romance. “Never get your meat where you get your bread,” he’d say.

A mentor in college shared with me that valuable insight that if I have “too many irons in the fire” to simply take one out of the fire at a time and work on it. He also elevated me to apparently elite status by discovering the numerical value of my name. Type 7730.0537 into your calculator, then view the display upside-down to discover what he meant.

Today, as the parent of two teenagers of my own and a one-month-old foster son, I appreciate the males who are making a difference in their lives and I try to pass on my own wisdom: the only thing better than a Sunday afternoon nap is a Monday afternoon nap, there are three sides to every story, everyone is good for something (even though it may just be as a bad example) and the early bird doesn’t just get the worm, he gets biscuits and gravy, too.

As you celebrate today, take time to appreciate the wisdom and insight of the men in your life. There are some things only a father can teach.

  1. Randy Fox
    January 23, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Very good article! Do you ever remember being a teenager and shutting out any sage advise your father was trying to give you while you were busy thinking about that girl in the lunch line? I often wonder what advice my father was trying to impart when I totally closed my ears to what he was saying at those times.

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