Sunday, June 15, 2014

5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Daddy

This Father's Day, I am honoring my husband for the father that he is and celebrating some great men I know, but I am missing my own dad terribly. While he was not perfect, his memory shines in my mind with a glow around it. He brought me such joy and taught me so much about how to be a person who lives generously and brings joy to others. So while I miss him today, I will celebrate him, his legacy that lives on in his beautiful family, and the things he taught me about life.

1. Sing to people. It makes them happy. My dad sang while we cooked, while he worked, and while he went about his daily life in the grocery store, the bank. He sang on stages and made music that lives in history. But he made the world a stage where he performed to make people smile. When I went to run some errands days after his death, the bank tellers gathered around me weeping telling me how they would miss him and the songs he sang them every Friday afternoon. My dad gave me the courage to sing for joy. It's a good kind of courage to have.

2. Preparing and serving food for others is an art and a joy. Savor it. My dad loved to cook. He loved to be creative in the kitchen. He was legendary among family and friends for his signature dishes. He pretended not to want to share his kitchen with us, but we all knew he loved it. And oh how he loved to watch people enjoy his food. This attitude about food has permeated our family. It is part of who we are collectively. And I love that about us. Meal preparation for my family is a time to savor because my dad taught me how. That is a great gift.

3. You're never too old to learn something new. My dad had access to a high school library, the History Channel and EWTN for the first time in his life during his retirement years. He made liberal use of them. He read, he watched, and he learned new things. He loved the knowledge he gained and the conversations it empowered. He taught me that learning is a privilege and a joy and we should greet even the smallest opportunities to learn something new with gratitude and zeal. Learning new things is a great joy to me today and I am thankful to my dad for his example.

4. The way you present yourself matters. My dad was meticulous about the way his clothes were laundered and ironed, about the way he tucked his shirt and were his cuffs lay on his wrists. He knew that presentation mattered. Whatever job he was doing, he wanted to put his best foot forward while doing it. It used to drive me crazy at times when he commented on my clothing choices or whether I had ironed my school shirt, but with a little maturity, I can appreciate his lesson. The way you care for your appearance tells the world a lot about you and what you think of yourself. Think about the message you are sending. Make it a good one.

5. You can decide how you will be remembered. My dad had his fair share of rough seas in life. He made his mistakes. He did not grow up ideal circumstances. He fought some hard battles and lost some. But ask just about anyone and their memories are of a man full of joy, a man who loved well, a man of wisdom and faith and strength. A man who knew how to savor life and the ones he loved. And that is because, I think, somewhere along the way, he decided that is how he wanted to be remembered and he lived it. He didn't look back at the past and disqualify himself. He maximized his gifts and shared them to the fullest. And he built himself into a giant of a man whose memory lives large and full of light and life. It is a gift to know you can choose. He taught me to choose well and let the rest go. It may be the best lesson I ever learn.

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