“Things My Dad Taught Me”
19 May 2006
Being a parent is a tough nut. We get no lesson and more or less have to figure out for ourselves how to raise our children. Beyond the stresses and strains of making a living, most parents, I think or hope, feel some responsibility to teach their children various things. I have heard it said that these days, parents think the school system is responsible for teaching their children everything they need to know, which I think is sad and a mistake. Also, it is obvious to me that some parents do not instill in their children any moral or ethical lessons or something as simply as respecting the law and others.
Right now, my middle daughter is trying to get pregnant and for whatever reason, she is having a hard time of it. As for my wife and I, we had and raised 4 children and although they are not perfect, they have did learn lessons from my wife and I. The point being here is that with my middle daughter trying to get pregnant and “start a family” as is said; I began wondering what lessons my Dad taught me growing up. Have never really contemplated it and like a lot of what I believe or do, not sure where the baseline thoughts came from. So in no specific order, below I list some of the things my Dad taught me:
1. How to hunt wild game. I am not sure I could do it now, but once upon a time, I could walk for miles in a forest and never make a sound. He taught me how to hunt night crawlers in rainy nights and then use them to fish. I have killed a ton of squirrels and rabbits in my time and probably 100’s of fish to include perch and trout.
2. Gun safety. Always had guns around as a kid as Dad’s family were all wild game hunters.
3. “If you are going to do something, do it right.” Of course, most people say they do whatever they do right but I know this is not true. Lots of half ass efforts made out in the world and people not carrying about what they do.
4. “An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”
5. To hug loved ones. Actually, he taught me this because he didn’t.
6. Do not hit, strike, or abuse your wife. He did, I don’t.
7. A marriage must be a partnership of 2 equal people. In the case of my Dad, he was raised to believe that the man was the king of the castle and whatever he said goes, no matter what his wife thought. I have never dominated my wife that way.
8. To be honest in all dealings. To not steal, lie or cheat.
9. Although not a deeply religious man or so my impression as he never one to talk about such matters, he did ensure that my brother and I got religious training and background. You can debate religion all you want but there are many good life lessons in the Bible and I am glad he insisted we receive this form of education.
10. A love for music. He listened to it, tried to play it on old cheap guitars and music has been with me ever since. My life would be poorer without all the music I have heard and enjoyed.
11. As he supported me in whatever I tried or wanted to do, I did the same with the children I was privileged to raise. No, he did not attend every baseball game I ever played in, nor went on camping trips with my brother and I in the Boy Scouts, but he seemed to have this knack to do the right thing to help, just at the right time.
12. To talk about various topics with your wife, family, children. He did not do this, to his determent and all his family. Perhaps it was the generation but he just did not talk about any serious topic at all. I do. Makes some people uncomfortable when I talk and question on certain topics but perhaps because of my Dad, I feel compelled to discuss, be open. One of the things I think is so great between myself and the 4 children I was blessed to have live with me, is that we can talk about any topic and do. I think it makes us closer.
13. To respect one’s elders. After my grandmother died, my Dad visited his Dad every Sunday for the whole afternoon for hours. Sometimes I would go along but the point being that although everyone is busy with their own lives, one must not forget about one’s parents and other family members. My Dad would do all he could for my grandfather and over the years, while my parents were still here, I tried to do what I could for them.
14. Not to drink alcohol. My Dad was never a beer drinker and I did not grow up in a house where alcohol was around or always being consumed. Occasionally, my Dad would binge drink the hard stuff until he got sick as a dog and for whatever reason, unknown to both of us, I have done the same from time to time over the years. Probably some sort of cleansing, release thing.
15. How to drive a clutch car. Drove old car around and around yard for hours before he would take me out on road and then being bastard that he was, took me to steepest hill in town that had a traffic light at the time and timed it just right so I would have to clutch start the car on the hill to see if I could handle the foot brake, clutch process on a steep hill. I taught all 4 children how to drive. Where I live, I really have to wonder sometimes how taught certain drivers, as they are so bad. One of the things my Dad taught me about driving was to look around. Turn your head and look, just don’t use the mirrors. If more people actually turned their head and checked, there would be fewer accidents.
16. Although we always have various wood pieces around as a kid and he had tools of all types, I have to say he did not teach me much about woodworking. A shame to as he could have taught me some simple things like where to place saw blade on line to be cut. But he had wood available and never complained about my use of his tools and thus he taught he something about freedom and experimentation. “Sure, go ahead and build it.”
17. Not to brag. He hated braggers and instilled the same in me. Instilled to the point that I can never “blow my own horn” and have a terrible time accepting a complement. Interesting to note that if a bragger could live up to his claims or brags, then my dad was ok with it.
18. Not to be a racist. My Dad never talked down about any race I am aware up. Was not brought up in a racist household. Lesson learned and past on.
19. Sometimes when things got rough, just stick it out, and things would improve. Once in school, I called him to say I wanted to quit and he told me he would come and get me but he would like me to wait one day and if felt the same way tomorrow, call and he would come and get me. I never called.
20. One day, in the car, probably headed hunting or fishing, out of nowhere, he told me that "masturbation leads to insanity." Only words he ever spoke to me about sex. When he said his short speech, I did not say a word. Oh, just so you know, he was not joking with me, he was serious.
21. That moonshine tastes awful. Went with him one time to see famous old moon shiner who made the best stuff in that part of the Virginia mountains. Been in and out of jail many, many times but had 9 kids and judge would always release him to support his family rather than have the state do it. Anyway, we go to this out of the way place and meet the shiner and in bottle is this clear liquid. I must have been 13, maybe 14 at the time and after each in the party had had a sip from the bottle and made their awful faces and danced around and then said how good it was, I was offered a drink by my Dad. Yes sir, I was going to be admitted to some secret club or society. Burn! Nothing I have ever swallowed before or since burned on the way down as that stuff did. Never, ever sought out or drink moon shine again.
22. That a man's word is his bond.
23. You never make promises you do not keep.
24. To run from confrontation. Since he and my mother seemed to love intense, often physical arguments, which I witnessed many time, I hate confrontation and always tend to run away.
25. To tell the truth.
26. Not to use corporal punishment with children. My dad used his belt on me many times for some real or perceived infraction and he always got into "it" a little too much. Later he would come and apologize for the intensity of the beating and cry and ask for my forgiveness. So weird or strange. Yes, when first child born, did raise my hand to punish or correct behavior, but did not take long to realize that carrying over actions of my parents to children living with me was wrong.
I am sure there are many more lessons he taught me and I will try to add as they come to mind.
I guess in the end, my point is that as a parent one should take on the responsibility of teaching children various things and not leave it up to others.