There are many stories I could share about my Dad. I think he’s the most influential person in my life.
I could tell you about how he used to wear a cowboy hat and play his ukulele and sing 60’s music on summer nights on our suburban front porch. Totally mortifying.
I could tell you about how every dinner discussion was about some social issue, in which we were challenged to make an argument, defend it and then argue a different point of view.
I could tell you how manners were a big deal in our house. Where the butter knife, napkin, fork went and more importantly how our behavior at the table mattered.
I could tell you about how we would sit up late and night when a storm was rolling in. We would sit on the porch and watch the lightening and count the beats before the thunder.
I could tell you about he tried in agony to teach me math. How we made a 100 circles of pies to explain fractions, only to find his lip quivering and his pencil breaking.
I could tell you about our time on the tennis court when he would push me to “attack the ball,” ” move my feet.” and “play tough.”
I could tell you that his vernacular of swear words was impressive.
I could tell you how he loved art, nature and music. How he made us watch Nature and Nova and listen to classical music. How he would blare music in the car and jam out to old rock and roll. How he loved the Blues and would try to sing like Pavarotti, when we ate Italian food.
How he watched every sport. Played every game and loved being an athlete.
How he would call all of his old student’s “bud” because he could never remember their name.
How he got this big solo in church one year and would play it on cassette tape in our car and sing it over and over and over and over again.
“If with all your heart ye truly seek me, ye shall truly find me.
Thus sayeth our God.
Oh, that knew, where I might find him.
If with all your heart ye truly seek me. Ye shall truly find me.
Thus sayeth our God.”
But the story I want to share is one that has gone down in family lore. I was a ballet dancer. I took ballet in downtown Bloomington. -It was not the safest part of town. One night Dad picked me up in our big blue van. It was one of those big Ford caravan things. Anyway, I came down the stairs and my Dad said, “Hurry! Get in the Car! I just saw someone knock out someone’s headlights with a baseball bat! He left on foot! Let’s follow him!”
I got in the car. Dad meandered quietly through the streets of Bloomington following this guy as he dodged between people’s houses going block to block. It felt like forever. Finally the guy ended up at a Mr. Quick. Dad went to a pay phone. (No cell phones back then) Called the police, reported the offense and described the bad guy. We waited until the police came and made a report.
We drove home feeling like Cape Crusaders.
This little experience taught me a lot at the age of 10. It taught me about responsibility to our neighbors. How we are accountable through our citizenship to people we don’t even know who are victims of crimes or injustices. It taught me that often, if not always, being brave and being crazy are never too far apart. It taught me to do the right thing, even when it feels a little scary and unsettling.
My Dad was a teacher by profession and continues to be a teacher in life. In honor of Father’s Day and in honor of him here are the things my Dad taught me that I carry with me today.
1. You can do anything you put your mind to.
2. “Did you do your best?”
“Well then that’s all that matters.”
” Did you do your best?”
” I didn’t think so. How did that feel not to do your best?”
“Did you learn something?”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll do better next time. Now let it go and move on.”
3. True beauty is natural. Wash it. Part it. Comb it.
4. Be genuine.
5. All people are just people.
6. I am no better than the poorest person on the street. Treat everyone with equal respect.
7. All life has value.
8. Play Hard. Work Hard.
9. Think. Read. Listen. Explore. Learn. Experiment. Repeat.
10. Respect Nature. Look around. Notice the sunlight on the leaf, the way the water bends on the rock, the way the shadow lengthens as the days go longer.
11. Be a good citizen.
12. Challenge Authority. Respect the rules.
13. Own your responsibilities.
14. Death is not scary. “Were you safe before you were born?”
“Then you will be safe in your death.”
15. The Holy Spirit isn’t something to be understood, it is to be acknowledged.
16. Listen to good music.
17. Remember this: No matter where you go in life. No matter how far apart we are, or what you are doing, or how alone you may feel. You are never alone. I am always your dad. I will always be right her for you. I will always love you. You will always be my Sugar. Now Go Get ’em.
Happy Father’s Day.