1. The more children you have, the less labor you have to do around the house. There I was, sweating it out as I pushed mowed the trim in our Plantersville, MS home. I looked over and noticed my dad had come outside onto the back porch and was sitting down. As I finished I pulled up beside the deck and asked in the best teenager tone I could have with still a hint of respect, “what are you doing?!” To which my dad replied, “Why do you think I had you, son?”
2. How to play golf….sort of. I don’t remember precisely when dad started teaching me the game of golf. I do remember some of the coworkers that played with us like a guy named Rodney. He was a Miami Dolphins fan I think (since they are in the AFC I didn’t really care). I got to see golf clubs broken, some thrown into the water, mulligans used repeatedly on some days, and how to drive the cart. On a more serious side, dad took time to show me how to improve my stroke, how to putt properly, and how to gage distances using the cart path markers once I started figuring out just how far I could hit each club. I learned the value of the driving range and that if you want to play golf for a hobby or even work then you had better be making enough money to support this habit, and I do mean habit. The game is addicting.
3. I learned the importance of putting your best foot forward with whatever you do. Not only is it the right thing to do but it reflects your character. If you are not giving it your all then your integrity comes into question. I have never seen a man more committed to providing for his family while still being able to balance time for his family. Kudos, pops!
4. I learned that you do not back talk or sass your mother, especially in the presence of her husband (who happens to be your father as well). This can lead to unexpected consequences that let you know your attitude needs to change and so does your tone. Mom taught me the same lesson when dad was not around so I guess sometimes you need a lesson more than once for it to sink in.
5. When you do something stupid it is best to own up to it right away to avoid even more severe consequences. In other words, accept responsibility for your actions. This was a two part lesson. First, I did some really stupid stuff as a 12 year old that got me in trouble with the law. I tried to lie my way out of it on the front end, but once I came clean the ride was fairly smooth though still a little painful. So when I popped my dad’s truck tire off after rutting up a girl’s yard while in high school I knew that I had better tell dad right away…once I got home (pre-cellphones, at least for our home). I left him a note detailing what had happened and put something to the effect of, “if you wake me up whooping me with the belt I will understand,” in the letter. When I woke up the following morning and realized that dad had already left for the day and that I was not dead I was grateful. I still had to handle the running around of getting the tire fixed but because of dad’s mercy the lesson of owning up to your crime sunk in heavy. Just be honest and let the cards fall where they will.
6. When you are in trouble (even if self-inflicted) you can count on your family. This is a family specific lesson so if it doesn’t apply to your family, sorry. The incident when I was 12 showed me that real men surround those they love and care about with wisdom and mercy. I thought I would be whooped daily for the next six months of probation but that is not what my dad did. They didn’t even ground me. I think we shot a little basketball and talked about making wise decisions and responsibility. I remember my Pappy taking me to The Lake and talking with me about growing up, becoming a man, and responsibility. Do you notice a theme here? Responsibility. It is the hallmark of a real man.
7. A new lesson that I am waiting to implement due to a lack of budgetary funds is that if an item in your home, vehicle, etc… needs to be fixed then pay the person who knows how to fix it instead of doing it yourself. Not only will you save yourself money (from buying the tools, parts, doctor’s bill after maiming yourself, etc…) but you will keep hours of your life from being spent in emotional anguish. For now, I have to fix some things myself and I am getting fairly decent at it, or so I think.
8. Dad showed me how to love a woman. I can always remember mom and dad being touchy-feely. They would playfully kiss in front of us, sometimes making my sister and I go, “uggghhhhhh”. Dad would slap mom on the butt or every now and then send her flowers, “just because”. He takes her out to the symphony now and they will ride together just to look at things, even if it is something mom alone likes. They have always seemed to communicate with each other (even if it was an intense argument it was still communication). I don’t think I ever saw either one of them give the other a “cold shoulder”. They talked/talk about deep things and feelings. This has helped me to be open about whatever I am thinking and feeling with my own wife. Shoot, anybody who knows me knows that I don’t shy away from telling folks what I am thinking (my wife has had to teach me tact). It is who I am.
9. I learned how to take risk, even after failing. Talk about entrepreneur. My dad is the epitome of the word. He and mom have been through a business failure that ended in bankruptcy, numerous job changes that each had their own risk, and then in the past two years at least three ventures into the self-employed market and another move on the way. To me this is the spice of life. Why settle for something when you can keep trying to do so many different things. I have definitely taken on my father’s tendency in this arena. It is okay to fail. It is not okay to wallow in self-pity. You allow others to help pick you back up and move forward. It is like in Meet the Robinsons (the cartoon movie a few years back). Every failure is a success, just measured in a different way.
10. I learned how to relax. It seems like we have always done things as a family that were just a way of letting time pass by. Dad would play the guitar on the porch and we would all sing and harmonize. Or we would go skiing and camping. Or just lounging around watching football or playing a quick game of football with some of the family and friends. It is important to relax. If you can’t relax then you probably are not enjoying life. I can hear some people saying, “Keith, you never relax. You always have a project or something going on.” Well, I don’t deny that but the Misses and I definitely get down time. It is what my dad taught me to do.
So HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, to a dad who taught me more than just these ten things but these were the first ten things that came to mind.
Love ya, Pops,