Tonight's post comes from a very personal space; it's about my father. My dad was a stubborn, hard-working Norwegian guy born in 1912 in a small Northwestern Wisconsin town. I was born into my family about 11 years after 3 siblings - "Caboose", my dad fondly called me. He was a very smart man who didn't like school and was baffled by my endless pursuit of further education. Dad was naturally smart, and naturally argumentative; I'd like to think that I inherited both of those traits, but I'm not so sure about the naturally smart part. He loved people; he didn't know the meaning of the word stranger and would look to strike up a conversation everywhere he went. That aggravated me as a small girl when he would invite me to run errands with him, and I would find myself spending great amounts of time waiting for him as he talked and talked and talked. I remember on one occasion that I had reached the end of my patience and I honked the horn on our old white Ford. He ended his conversation with the other person and quickly started one up with me when he got to the car and let me know that I was never to do that again. And, I didn't! To this day, it irritates me to have someone honk a car horn because they want to get someone's attention.
Dad lived through the depression and because material possessions were hard to come by, he was a very frugal man who made things last as long as they possibly could. He and my mom lived on a tiny budget their whole lives, always putting away money for a rainy day. I remember him trying to teach me about the difference between wants and needs. As I recall, there were actually very few things that I "needed"; most were provided for me, and the other things on my list were all wants. I didn't inherit that frugal nature, although there are times I wish I did, and I am convinced that my husband wishes for that also.
Another byproduct of living through the depression was the idea of being grateful for having any kind of job. So many people had no work at all, and the concept of liking your job or enjoying what you did was not something people thought about. My dad never really got over that attitude about work and my constant search for work or a career that I enjoyed truly bothered him. My undergraduate degree was in music education and I secured a job right out of college. I taught music for two years and discovered that I really disliked it. It was so bad the second year that I maxed out my sick days because I would get sick just thinking about going in to teach on Monday mornings. That started a 28 year cycle of getting more education, working at a job, and then looking for something new. Every time I would leave an organization and head back for some type of education, my dad would shake his head and remind me that if I had "stayed teaching music" I would have tenure and be making really good money. When I would respond by telling him I didn't like what I was doing - that it didn't make me happy, he would always ask what being happy had to do with having a job. By the time he passed away at age 94, I had settled into this career and was truly loving my work. I believe he felt like I had finally grown up and settled down.
In many ways, I am not at all like my father. I will spare you all those details in this post, but trust me when I say that I think and do things quite differently than he did and I am convinced he has not always approved of my approach to things. I mentioned that my father was a smart man who was full of innovative ideas and was not afraid to speak his mind about anything. I have always felt that many more of my dad's ideas would have taken root if he had figured out how to package things differently. He didn't mince words; as a matter of fact, he was very direct and didn't really give a thought to how the words might make other people feel. Oftentimes, I use my father as an example of how NOT to communicate. Perhaps, it is this last point that has bothered me of late and made me feel as if I were not honoring him for his positive traits. My father was a good man - a man that with the best of intentions - sometimes his words and his approach just didn't come across as he intended. At times, he has likely watched me and wondered how much I loved him because of the stories I tell of him in order to illustrate a point in my work.
He has been on my mind a great deal lately, and I miss him. His presence in my thoughts motivated me to go out into my garage and open up an old hope chest that has a huge box of journals in it. For about 40 years, my father and mother would write in their journals every night before going to bed. Yes - I said 40 years. Can you believe it? I have those 40 years of handwritten journals in a box in my garage and I started to have this nagging feeling that I needed to read them and transcribe them and share that history with my kids and the generations to come. Just reading in Dad's journals has started to remind me of things I had forgotten and in many ways brought me closer to him.
Dad has been gone for nearly 8 years now. In tonight's post I want to share a gift or habit that I picked up from Dad. In doing so, it will help me honor him for the wonderful man he was. I also hope it makes you think about your own father and what gifts he has given to you. If you are lucky enough to still have your Dad in your life, please give it some thought and then share your love with him.
I love words! and until tonight, I never connected my love of words with my Dad. I don't know how I missed it, and I am so glad that it clicked for me because I feel this new connection to him and a gratitude for something that is really a big part of my life. You see when I opened the first journal, some folded yellow legal pad pages fell out. On those pages were a talk that he had been asked to give at church on Mother's Day 2005. At that point, my Mom had been gone four years and I know it was a hard thing for him to talk about. He started his talk by saying "I have been thinking about the word mother for a couple of weeks now. We all know what it means, but there are many applications of the word and I want to start this talk by sharing some of those." My mouth dropped open as I read this because nearly every time I create a workshop or am asked to speak to a group, I start by pondering the key words and investigate what the words really mean. Everyone that knows me, knows that I am a junkie about the origin of words and their meanings. THANKS, Dad!
Since reading that talk and having that realization, I have started to think about how his love of words gave me a love of words and how that shows up in my life!
* Scrabble may be my favorite game
* I have no less than 12 word board games on my shelves right now
* There is only one BOOK on my desk and it is the DICTIONARY OF ETYMOLOGY
* My dad and I used to have races to see who could solve the JUMBLE puzzle first
* My sons and I have had those same JUMBLE races
* There is some kind of word puzzle book in every bathroom of my house (too much information)
* I always won the spelling bees for my grade
* When I was young and would ask my dad what a word meant, he would always tell me to go and find it in the dictionary and then we would sit and discuss it
* As long as I can remember, my dad had two books on the floor by his chair - a set of scriptures and a dictionary
* I love the power of the words we use, and am fascinated by how many times we completely miss each other because the same word means different things to different people
So, where do we leave things tonight? It leaves me with a smile on my face as I realize how much it means to me to have this connection to Dad that I never realized (and it's never too late to find that connection). It also reminds me of the importance of capturing stories and history of our family members and recording those somewhere. Names and dates of ancestors are great, and pictures are cool, but stories - AH, stories are the real gems. I will leave it up to you what you take away from this post...I'm convinced that there was someone in my readership that needed to hear this story this week for some reason. Each week I simply write what presents itself to me - trying to stay in the moment - this week I needed to be reminded that I am my father's daughter and am very grateful for that.