Lessons From My Dad
We all grew up differently. The older I get the more I realize what a charmed child hood I had. We did not have much money but we never knew it because we had such great parents. I was blessed to have mom and dad there my entire childhood and to this day. Today I want to talk about my dad and how he shaped me.
My dad is a retired Marine. The Marine Corp teaches a lot of things besides just how to fight. Several things dad learned in the Marines (and from his parents) were passed down to me. I remember my mom polishing dad's uniform belt buckles. I remember my dad polishing his uniform shoes and making sure everything on his uniform was perfect before he left for the day. I learned from him to dress professionally for work. It is something I do to this day.
He went to work every day and did whatever his country ask of him. He served in Viet Nam and I remember how skinny he was when he finally came home. He taught me to take pride in your work and always do your best.
When he was serving in Viet Nam... he bought himself and my mom small reel to reel tape recorders so they could send recorded messages back and forth. There were no cell phones and land line usage was extremely expensive. My mom would let us each tell dad something on one side of the tape then she would record her message to him on the other side. My dad would talk to each of the kids on one side of his tape and to mom on the other. They sent these tapes back and forth the entire time dad was there. It meant a lot to us to hear his voice. He taught us that no matter what else is going on ... he was thinking about us. That's what great dads do.
My dad did combat patrols in Viet Nam but I have never heard him talk about it. He is very proud of his time serving his country but he doesn't go around yelling "Semper Fi" at everyone. He taught me that you serve because it's the right thing to do ... not so you can brag on it later.
We never saw mom and dad argue when we were kids. They never talked about money in front of us. They were quick with discipline and praise. Their lives revolved around their kids and later around their grand kids. There were a lot of lessons I learned from this. I learned that kids need to be kids. They don't need to know about the pressures that adults are facing. I learned that being a parent means that you have to dish out discipline no matter how much it hurts you inside when your kid thinks you are mean. I also learned how to respect a woman. To this day I watch my language around my wife and family. We don't cuss in my house. I still open doors for my wife and we walk together when we go places(I never walk in front of her.) Everything we have is "ours." I still say "sir" and "mam."
I watched my dad take a job with the city after he left the service. I heard him talk about getting benefits for the people in his department. He made sure they all had insurance and retirement. I learned that being the boss means you are responsible for those on your team. I learned that compassion was part of leadership.
Growing up we spent vacations at my grandmother's house in Franklin, Louisiana. We saw the small shotgun house that my dad and his siblings grew up in. It was a small two bedroom house with a sugar cane filed in the back yard. It is hard for me to imagine my dad's huge family all living there. My dad went to work when he was six years old as a delivery boy for the drugstore. He brought his weekly pay home and contributed it to the family till. He was not working for spending money. I'm sure that taught him a lot of lessons that were passed down to me. He came from a very poor upbringing and worked his way up to an officer in the Marines. After his requirement he went to work as a civil servant and earned a second retirement. He and my mom now live comfortably because of his years of hard work. He taught me that if you go to work everyday and give it your best ... you will succeed.
I thought I would just throw out some random memories of my dad during my childhood. Here are a few things that stand out.
I remember one year my brothers and I all got BB Guns. We were hunting squirrels and could not seem to hit anything. We complained to my dad that the guns did not shoot straight. He took one of the guns and spotted a squirrel way up in the top of a tall pecan tree. He took aim and shot one time. The squirrel fell out of the tree. Dad could shoot!
I remember dad throwing the football to us. We would all take turns going out for passes. I also remember dad's way of helping us with school work. We would line up at one end of the hall and dad would be at the other. He would ask questions and every time we answered correctly we would move one step towards him. The first person to get to dad would win a piece of a candy bar (a big treat.) Then we would line up and do it again until the candy bar was gone.
My dad spent some time as a Combat Cargo Officer on a U.S. Navy ship. My brothers and I got to spend the night on the ship and eat in the Officer's Dining Room. You can bet we were always on a our best behavior and very neat and clean when we were on the base. Spending the night on a real Navy ship was quite a treat for us.
The main thing my dad taught me was how to be a dad. He taught me how to teach by example. You would be amazed at all of the unintentional lessons that kids receive during childhood. I learned that the most important people in your life are your family. I learned that being a dad means that everything you do affects everyone in your family. Great dads know that and act accordingly. I am thankful everyday for the lessons my dad taught me. They have affected the way I treat my family, co-workers and complete strangers. I thank God everyday for my dad.