Father’s Day weekend is here and I thought it would be fitting to carve out some time and some space on the internet to honor my Dad. Although, it is kind of funny though, as my Dad really deep down despises the internet and social media because he can’t stand walking into a room and seeing his family, with their ‘noses all in their phones and faces down.’ As a marketing professional with a strong grasp on all things social media and digitally related, he still to this day, eight years into my career, cannot fully understand what I do or how it impacts business.
I have had countless conversations on what Twitter is versus Facebook and the definition of a ‘Tweet’ and how it all works. He knows I have this Blog but cannot fully grasp what a ‘Blog’ is or why I would ever spend my free time doing this. He has questioned why we (as in his family) are so obsessed with our phones, and then when I say, ‘This is the way the world now communicates with each other and businesses.” He scowls and explains, “Well, I don’t.”
It is ultimately funny that I sit here writing about communication when my father is a man of very little words. Let me repeat for you, very little words.
Growing up we knew no different, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share how I realized in elementary school just how little he spoke, when I would have sleepovers at friends’ houses. One girlfriend had a Dad who was always the life of our get-together. You knew it was her birthday party each year, as he would march through the house starting a Kongo line and yelling for us each to join in. Another friend’s Dad was such an integral part of her life, that he was the one we called in High School to pick us up outside dances and parties, and when we pilled in the car he would entertain and crack us up the whole way home.
My father was different.
We picked on him, and still do for his lack of words. With that said, I never questioned his love for me or involvement, because he showed his emotions through other means. When I would want to sit for hours with my Mom rehashing every detail of a major accomplishment, all I needed from Dad, was eye contact and a quick ‘proud of you’ and I was content. He attended every major high school football, soccer and basketball game… to watch me cheer on the sidelines. He made me learn to drive a stick shift and as I whined and pouted, “I cannot do this.” He gritted his teeth and yelled back, “Yes, you can.” Then on my 17th birthday, he woke me up extra early and said, ‘Let’s practice driving a manual again.” Only to lead me, from the passenger seat, to a local car dealership to test drive an automatic. Then as we pulled back in the dealership, he simply stated “Happy Birthday, Ashli.”
When I graduated from High School, I rushed around like an idiot trying to get ready for the big night so I could go meet my friends for a pre-ceremony celebration. As he tried to stop me multiple times in our home, I was too selfish to give the man who said so little any time of day. Then he slipped a piece of paper in my hand, and as I waited for my friends in a grocery store parking lot I cried like a baby at the hand written note he had given me, praising me and expressing his love.
My Dad had placed emphasis on me to be an architect, something to this day, I still regret not doing. Buying into his urging, we agreed I would attend the local college for one year and then transfer to the state university for Architectural school. When I fell in love with theater my freshman year of college, I unveiled my new plans to my Dad, on the stage of a state Beauty Pageant competition. As he sat in the crowd watching me, with a big button of my face, attached to his shirt, the announcer read the pre-submitted cue cards, in which mine stated, “A theatre major.” Shortly, after defeat and facing my father in the hotel hallway, he hugged me, kissed my forward, told me I should have won and quietly said, “theatre, huh?”
Then, when I fell in love and soon my wedding day starred us both in the face, he stayed in the background for pre-planning. Shining as the unsung hero who somehow was able to arrange a seating chart to accompany 175 people in a tiny red barn. As we lined up for the procession, and the violinist played softly in the background, I knew he sensed that I felt a bit faint and suddenly incoherent. I remember distinctly my father saying to the nearest bridesmaid, “Get her a glass of wine.” As, the bridal party walked out of the house and through the field to our wedding guests, we stayed back a moment longer. I sipped the wine and starred my father in the eyes. Little words. But a private moment I will always cherish.
I agreed, but while I always listened, I didn’t always appreciate. For that, I am sorry, Dad. But as I near 30 years old in August (Yikes!), I finally, finally do. My Dad has taught me the following about life.
- America was built by hard working individuals, who made a lot of sacrifices in life for the betterment of others. Respect that and them, and more importantly honor that, by in turn giving your all every single day, always working hard.
- Save your money! Gosh, I remember thinking I hated him for this. After ever birthday party, “Ebenezer Scrooge” would make a grand appearance, with a palm open. I would have to hand over any money I received as a gift and he would count it in front of me. Then promptly hand me back half. He would explain that the other half would go into my savings account he opened and would in turn be mine when I turned 18 years old. I remember crying. Screaming, “These are birthday gifts. You want the half of my Barbie too!” He really never argued back, more just walked away, but not without hearing me scream, “This is not fair!” (By the way, he kept his word, and at 18 years old, I received access to my account.) I miraculous, loved my father again!
- Speaking of fair. He taught me just that… life is not and will never be fair. Learn it and accept it.
- Sacrifice. With five kids, I sometimes to this day get mad at him for working so hard and sacrificing so much, and feel saddened that he truly doesn’t live. But, I am starting to believe that to him living means watching his five kids enjoy life and be happy.
- Contribute to a 401k. Even if you make little to nothing and you think you need every dollar. Put something away for retirement.
- That the best things in life are sweets! You can totally eat 12 cookies, a large piece of cake and a slice of pie in one seating! He does it all the time.
- You can always get by in life with far less than you currently have.
- You always, always have a choice in life. This was a recent, new, tough lesson from him. As tears rolled down my face over some tough decisions, he coldly told me, “You are not allowed to cry in front of me over this.” You are in control here. You have a choice.
- Sometimes it is best to remain quiet. 🙂 That not everything needs your opinion.
- And, finally his favorite line – “Accept what you can not change, change what you can not accept, and have the wisdom to know the difference.”
Powerful lessons from the man who would nod his head at the game scoring touchdown, vs leap off his stadium seat screaming. A man who bites his nail and mumbles a chuckle, while the rest of a room erupts in laughter over comic relief. A man who subtly tells you, “Drop the p,” when you hand him a card with “Grandpap” written on the front, to announce how he wants his first grandchild to address him.
You, see I grew up through this life with a man who spoke few words… but generated loud messages, loud lessons. It wasn’t until I became an adult and maybe even a parent that the weight of his quiet presence, all through my life, has been felt.
Thank you, Dad. Thank you for big lessons, tough love and your steady presence through my life. And, Happy Father’s Day!