Friday, February 02, 2007

Thanks for the lessons Dad

There are a lot of lessons to learn in life. How to tie your shoes, zip up your coat, and look both ways before crossing the street – the things your parents teach you.

My father and mother were there by my side, holding my hand as I learned these things. They patiently waited while I dawdled behind, stopping to inspect every rock, or pebble, or leaf along the way. They ran alongside as I wobbled my bike forward for the first time without training wheels, more proud than I as I rode forward, swaying back and forth.

They taught me to share my toys, eat my vegetables and say ‘excuse me’ if I burped. From them I learned to try hard at school, be nice to other kids and behave in the classroom.

Great lessons all.

There are also things you learn from books. My mom and dad were both there to show me places on the globe, help me with my math, and scold me when I didn’t study hard enough. My parents worked hard to make sure that a good education was available and that I learned as much as possible from books and school.

These too were great, and I learned a lot from the books my parents made available.

But there are some things that can’t be taught at all. You can only learn them by seeing someone else doing them. And when it comes to these lessons, I had the greatest example of all in my father.

We never really sat down and talked about how to be good man – a good person – but his example taught me everything I’ll ever need to know.

I learned that if you marry, you work hard to provide a good life for your wife. And when you have children, you work hard to provide for them. My father did these things. He did them and never once complained.

When my brother and I were in school, he not only worked hard at his job, but also became involved in our lives. He was there for track meets, choir and band concerts, and everything we ever did. He ran for and joined the local school board because he knew his talents could be put to use there to ensure that the education that all the kids in our town received would be the best it could be. Meanwhile, my mother joined the PTA and helped at school too.

Uninvolved parents? I didn’t even know there was such a thing. My father was always so quietly involved that I assumed that’s how all parents were. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized how lucky I was to have a father like mine.

When we moved to California, I watched my father leave for work early in the morning and arrive back in the evening. I never gave much thought to the hours he spent on the Los Angeles freeways each morning and night – commuting so far because he wanted us to live in a nice neighborhood with safe schools and good neighbors. Never once did I hear him complain – although I now know how tired he must have been. So, although he never told me this was something a man did because he loved his family, I know now that it is.

His example taught me.

I also learned that a man doesn’t need to make noise to be a man. I can’t remember a time that I heard my father’s voice raised in anger and I know I never heard him utter a coarse word in his long life. He was a quiet man, content to sit back in and let others be the center of attention. He wasn’t shy, just a man who quietly did what he knew was right.

I learned that a man is kind and generous. My dad did everything for his family. He had his pleasures – his computer was one of them – but, he would have gladly given it up if any of us ever needed anything. Both he and my mother would always do without so that even the smallest of desires my brother and I had were fulfilled. And later, I saw the simple joy of seeing his grandchildren running through the house light up his eyes like no pile of gold ever would.

I learned that loving kindness doesn’t make someone less a man, but more a man, as I watched my father stroke the head of the dog or pet a purring cat. We always had animals in the house – I don’t think my father would have had it any other way. It was just part of his caring nature.

I learned that you cherish your wife by watching my father’s constant love for my mother – a love that rose above any petty squabbles and day-to-day hardships. Through 42 years of marriage and two children, I never saw it waver. Their love rode out every storm and was something worthy of emulating and striving for.

Through countless days at County Stadium watching the Brewers play ball, handfuls of parent teacher conferences, and the roller coaster of growing up, my father was always there. He was there to see me graduate and he was there for my first license. He was there when I lost a job and he was there when I got a new one. Bounced about by life? – my father was a solid point, a supportive place. Happy or sad times, he was always there - even if far away.

And by just being there, he taught me more than I could have ever learned alone.

But mostly, I learned that if I ever grow to become half the man my father was, I would be a great man indeed. And, even though he’s gone from my day to day life, he’s still with me – a constant teacher, a great father.


SME said...

That is beautiful.
To anyone who says fathers aren't really necessary, I say read this.

Jurgen Nation said...

Shawn, this is a side we rarely get to see of you, so thank you for sharing this. What a fantastic, beautiful post. You? Awesometaculous.

Kate said...

I am so sorry, Shawn. I wondered where you were, but this post explains everything.

Without sounding ike a church cliche, peace be with you.

Beautiful post.

tshsmom said...

I was afraid that this was the reason you were absent. I'm so sorry Shawn!!
Such a beautiful tribute! You are a GOOD man; your good upbringing shows!

Slade said...

This brought tears to my beautiful. It has been 4 years since I lost my own father, and it still hurts. I am thinking about you, Shawn. And I know that you will be every bit of man that your father was. Afterall, he lives IN you...especially now.

thephoenixnyc said...

That was a beautiful post Shawn.

I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughst and prayers are with you.

In fact it word for word describes my relationship with my parents. I hear so many people talk about how bad their parents were or how they don't speak anymore. Sad.

I realize how lucky I was and still am. I still talk to my parents daily and have dinner with them once per week. They are coming up on their 40th this April.

Laura said...

It's amazing all the little things parents do that we never even notice but that can never be replace. This made me cry too. Hang in there (blog hugs) >:D<

Josh said...

I'm really sorry, man, and I love you and I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers. Give me a call if you want or need to.

The Zombieslayer said...

Wow Shawn, that was really powerful. You're definitely blessed to have had such a wonderful father. My prayers are with you.

Shawn said...

Thanks everyone for the nice thoughts. You guys are great!

Shawn said...

Thanks everyone for the nice thoughts. You guys are great!

tshsmom said...

We LOVE you Shawn!

Miranda said...

I'm sorry I'm so late to offer my condolences. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.