Category Archives: Small truths

Little Lessons from Dad

Have you ever sat down and tried to make a list of all the things you’ve learned from your parents? Aside from the *important* things, what are those little lessons that we learn by example? The (sometimes) inconsequential things that we remember a parent for?
I tried to make a list, without being too sappy:
  • Convince your daughter to have the expensive wedding. Worry later how you’ll pay for it.
  • A good story deserves to be retold.
  • A father is his daughter’s fiercest protector. While the daughter may not appreciate all that yelling and screaming on her behalf (especially if she’s a teenager) she should allow it to happen and be glad for his protection, because one day he won’t be there to do it.
  • Do something with all those National Geographic magazines you’ve been saving in the garage, before you die, so that your kids won’t have to feel bad about throwing them away.
  • Pending loss and grief give rise to new friendships and make clear those that should give way.
  • Stamp your feet when you’re angry. Your kids will remember you for it and laugh.
  • Let people take care of you when you need caring for. It helps them, even if it doesn’t make you feel any better.
  • Mispronounce words, often.
  • Cooking sun-dried tomatoes, Jamaican beef patties, or hearts of palm will cause raised eyebrows at the dinner table. Getting angry about it will only make your kids laugh more. (When you’re not looking, of course!)

  • Believe in life, always.

Because I needed to hear it today, the second anniversary of my dad’s passing, NPR’s All Things Considered aired a wonderful audio segment about a father and daughter called A Father’s Last Days. It was a sweet and sad reminder of the final months of my dad’s life and made me wish that I’d had the strength, humor, and foresight that Adrian had when helping her dad face the end of his life. Worth a listen, but have a tissue handy.

Whispering goodnight

Borland compares the fallen leaves to a colorful patchwork quilt of reds, tans, and yellows ready to blanket the earth and protect seed and root from frost until later in the season when it will be sheltered with a layer of glistening snow.

If we think of Spring as the morning of the year, then now is the evening, the bedtime of the green and flowering world. So, says Borland, the coverlet is spread and the tucking in begun. All that remains is someone to sing a lullaby to the earth, but the singers have all gone south. Who will whisper good night to the earth?

Part of my routine each morning is to read the daily entry in Borland’s Sundial of the Seasons. Yesterday’s entry, besides creating a wonderul image of the world being tucked in to sleep for the winter, reminded me of my childhood and the bedtime routine of being tucked in by mom or dad and saying my prayers:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

I was also taught to add a request for blessings after that:

God bless mommy and daddy, grandma and grandpop, friends and brothers, and ….

Funny how I can still remember that so clearly, and that I remember adding people and animals onto the end of that list. I can almost imagine my mom or dad wishing I would hurry up already so that they could get on with whatever they needed to do and be finished with tucking me in. The most important part of the routine, once prayers were said, was that the bedroom door be left open and the hall light be on. I was scared of the dark and the things that lurked under my tall canopy bed. I loved to hide under there during the daylight hours, but at night it was inhabited by monsters just waiting to drag a little girl under by an arm draped casually over the bedside.

Whenever it was that I was old enough to sleep without the hall light on and too old to be tucked in, the bedtime routine changed to a personal one, with prayers whispered to myself and a goodnight kiss for my dad, who was usually up at all hours of the night working on the computer.

I must’ve learned from him to be a night owl, because I’m the last to bed each night, turning off the lights and saying goodnight to the bunnies and then the dog who is fast asleep beside my husband on the bed. I shoo him off to his own comfy bed and climb into the warm spot he left behind, wishing for someone to tuck the blanket under my chin and then whisper goodnight when my prayers are finished.