10 Lessons from Dad (in no particular order)

  1. Be a good girl and don’t be obnoxious. Having five daughters to raise, Dad was a strict overseer. He knew he’d have to marry us all off someday, and did his best to ensure there were no “Shrews” to worry about. He was successful, and each of us is still married to the men we first married.
  2. Use good manners. Chew with your mouth closed, eat everything on your plate (because of the starving children in Africa), sit up straight at the table, don’t interrupt, speak clearly (I appreciate this more and more each passing year!), say “please” and “thank you,” hold the door for others, cover your mouth when you sneeze . . . important lessons still!
  3. Learn to drive defensively. This skill is necessary because every other driver on the road is an asshole. Dad’s words, not mine.
  4. Dry off with a facecloth first after you bathe, and use only one square of toilet paper after going #1. The facecloth rule made sense. Post-shower squeegeeing saved on towel laundering. It took me a long time to get over the guilt of grabbing a whole towel from the shower when I got to make the rules. The one toilet square was a rule we neither understood nor followed, and I don’t remember if there was a rule for #2. Can’t imagine what the toilet paper bill was each month, but I’m sure Dad did his best to prevent costly plumbing issues. Did I mention five daughters?
  5. Don’t lie. Although it helped to have something legitimate to tell the priest during confession, our parents always discovered the lie, and the consequences were then doubled: disappointment plus anger. Still, we took chances on “getting away with it.”
  6. There are consequences for your actions. It might be a stern word or look, or even a spanking, or no dessert, or no use of the family car, but it made an impression, and made us think twice (well, sometimes!) before doing something we knew might end poorly.
  7. Say your prayers. Dad and Mom never wavered a day on their faith, and daily prayers were as routine as hand washing. Every night I would fall asleep with the litany of rote prayers ending with “…and God bless Mommy and Daddy and Christine and Susie and Charlene and me and Carol and Nana and Bupa and Grandma and Grandpa and . . .” everyone I knew in my life.
  8. Be generous to others. To this day I do not know how many charities Dad supported, but I know that he gave generously to his church routinely, and his extended family and friends as well whenever he saw a need. He was always private about his giving. It made him the richest man on Earth in my eyes.
  9. Respect your elders. I grew up with a healthy sense of fear/admiration/respect for my elders because they were the ones who taught me and loved me and kept me safe. I knew I needed them. Now that I am one, I believe every child should learn this lesson!
  10. Respect your partner. For 65 years Dad treated Mom with respect, love, admiration, and humor. Sure, they had their arguments, but I don’t believe they ever went to bed angry. They made time to be together, just the two of them, every evening. They talked. They laughed. They danced. They hugged. They provided each of us girls with a glimpse of a future that was possible for us.

mom and dad dancing_2

Missing and thinking of you this Father’s Day, Daddy-O.

 

Eating Christmas

My morning walk with a neighbor friend always brightens my mood. Yesterday he, my husband, my dog and I attended a 3-hour nature walk to learn about edibles in the wild—not the kind recently legalized in Colorado, but the kind that could keep you alive in an emergency.

Although Ranger was unimpressed by the presentation, he nevertheless nibbled on the succulent grasses surrounding us. Attendance was more than 30 people ranging from age 4 to about 74 and my 85-pound pup behaved beautifully. Still, I kept to the back of the group and didn’t learn as much as I could have. My hubby and friend would fill me in, and I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of my surroundings.

This morning my friend and I searched along our route for the new growth at the end of pine branches, an excellent source of vitamin C. Sage bushes were everywhere and I started chewing a small sprig while searching for the new pine. Sage really packs a sensory punch, and when I finally added a few new pine needles to my mountain trail mix I was instantly transported to a childhood pre-Christmas day.

My little sister and I galloped around the living room to “Sleigh Ride” in our footie pajamas, our excitement for Christmas morning building. We had already found our longest knee-sock for the fireplace hearth; Santa always put a large piece of fruit in the toe on Christmas morning, so we wanted to ensure there was plenty of room for other surprises.

Mom was in the kitchen preparing the family feast for five girls and whatever extended family might arrive, and the smell of stuffing mixed with the fresh aroma of Christmas tree pine and happy holiday music wafting through the air . . . well, it just didn’t get any better than that.

My blast from the past was powerful on this very un-Christmas June morning and made me just a little homesick. I think I might have to squeeze in another visit this summer and forego the Boston lobsta for a turkey dinner. I’ll bring the sage.

Flying

I had never been on a horse before, and there I was–the magnificent beast towering above my 5th grade face–frightened and nervous and ridiculously excited.

I still don’t know why my teacher selected me to ride with her that day. I’d like to think it was because I had impressed her with my poetry.

With a little help, I was in the saddle and feeling the fear and freedom of my new vantage point. My teacher led me and another student on a gentle ride through a wildflower speckled meadow, and my confidence grew with each powerful step.

When she started to trot, I was petrified and exhilarated, hanging on for dear life, a smile on my face as wide as that glorious meadow. It was one of those don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry moments, and I laughed.

The adventure completed, I dismounted on noddle legs, adrenaline still surging through my little frame. Ms. B handed me a large brush and I groomed as much as I could reach on my patient new friend, looking into his soulful eyes whenever I could and feeling a connection I had never before felt with a non-human.

I have dreamt of flying several times in my life, and if I could choose a frivolous superpower, it would be flight. My gift of flight on the back of my first horse that day was as close as I may ever come to realizing my dream.