Invisible lessons

One of the more difficult aspects to moving away from South Florida has been leaving my dad behind. No, I didn’t spend a lot of time at his house before I moved — “cat’s in the cradle” and all that maudlin business — but it was good to have him close by, and know that seeing each other was just a matter of making time, not making plane reservations.

He’s still with me, though, all the time. When I walk down the power tool aisle in a hardware store I remember how my mother used to buy him a new saber saw or electric drill every Christmas, which he might use once or twice. While I’ve never managed to acquire a taste for wine, the word “merlot” is now permanently associated with his glass at dinner  (and occasionally, lunch). And every time I sit in a La-Z-Boy and find myself instinctually starting to drift off. it’s Thanksgiving again, with my dad and my brother snoring in the family room, ostensibly watching a football game.

But it’s more than just the silly, every day memories that keep him close to me. When I manage to completely screw something up, it’s my dad’s voice in my head reminding me to figure out what I did wrong, and learn from it. When I do the right thing for someone else instead of the right thing for me, I thank my dad for teaching me that I’m not the center of the universe. And when I tell stories that make people laugh, without them ever noticing they’re being taught something, too, well, I’m carrying on a family tradition. After all, I rarely noticed how much he was teaching me, while he was doing it.

Thanks for everything, Daddy, and happy Fathers Day.

Here are a couple of stories about my father, from the archives.

Slow learner:

But so much of who we become originates with our parents, for good or ill. My mother taught me to use my imagination and be creative, to have a vision, to reach, and to make the best use of what I was given; these are essential parts of my creative nature, and I wouldn’t have any of it without her influence. It was obvious that her goal was to mold me into an artist of some sort. My father, though, shaped who I became without me ever noticing it.

Chief Paduke’s Revenge:

Several years ago my brother and I were talking about practical jokes we had played, stupid pranks and whatnot. My dad was around, and was laughing at the stories he hadn’t heard before, and pointing out the times we hadn’t been nearly as clever as we had thought. Now, my dad has a prankster’s heart, and we were fairly sure he had pulled off some good ones in his day, so we asked him about it. He laughed, and regaled us with the following tale.


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