Things Your Father Wants You To Know #4~ Show It All The Time

You may have noticed that I am not good about days our culture calls “special”. I really believe that many of them were created by Hallmark and the flower companies to get people to spend more money on things they could get cheaper every other day of the year. The restaurants are packed, the card racks are empty, the florists are sold out. These “special” days, like Mother’s day and Valentine’s day; not Grandparents day, etc., are a marketer’s dream.

But I have learned, over time, that because our culture makes a big deal of them, they matter to people. It is, therefore, important to honor those days. Perhaps you don’t need to do it with the fervor of many Americans, which can be a little over the top, but I promise you your girlfriend will care if you don’t recognize Valentine’s day!

You should ask yourself, though, why the restaurants aren’t full of mother’s and sons or daughters all the time? Why aren’t men buying flowers to memorialize other special days, more personal to those they love. I bought your mother flowers on the 3d of every month for the first year of our relationship, because that day meant something to us; much more than Valentine’s day. Why aren’t we sending our mother’s flowers whenever we think of it? Or making the call to a grandmother just to talk? Or bringing our father’s breakfast in bed? These are the things relationships are built on; showing love for no special reason other than the love itself.

When my father was alive I learned to tell him I loved him every time I spoke to him, and to hug him every time I saw him. He never understood my need to hug him and he never hugged back. He never really understood my telling him I loved him, but at least he knew. And when he was dying he waited for me to sit with him, because he knew I loved him. When he was gone I had no regrets because I had showed my love, not held it captive for Father’s day.

It is important to make the effort to honor the “special” days that society has created for us. It is much more important to show people you love them on a regular basis. When you think of someone, pick up the phone, you never know when they will be gone. This is hard when we are all so busy, but a five minute phone call can mean the world to someone. A single rose on a Wednesday night can brighten up a whole week. So remember, love is not something you trot out and show off for special occasions; show it all the time.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #3 ~ Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

I think its fair to say that your father sweats the small stuff; the smaller it is the more sweat. And it causes him a lot of angst. He is truly a mensch when it comes to the big stuff. If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t have you! We had just moved in together and I called home and said I was bringing home a teenage girl who needed a foster placement ~ no big deal. Call him in the middle of the night for an emergency, he is up and out in a heartbeat; but leave a dish in the sink and his head explodes.

So more than almost anything he would tell you… don’t sweat the small stuff, it will just raise your blood pressure. And more importantly, it is almost all small stuff. There is very little that you will face in life that is actually life threatening. There is no question that you will face things that will force change in your life; change is not bad, it can just be very disconcerting. Fearing change can cause you to make bad decisions; trust me, we know. Most decisions, fortunately, are not irrevocable. The good news is that faith will carry you through most change, and most change won’t kill you; small stuff.

With any luck you will never go to war. Hopefully you will not face life threatening illness, catastrophic accident or the untimely loss of a loved one. But you cannot count on these things; these are the big things. You will sweat these things, they are hard, painful and demand your attention. These are the things it takes time to recover from, the things that leave scars on your heart. Pretty much everything else is small stuff.

If you remember that it is all small stuff, you will have an easier time in your relationships; the necessary compromise will come more readily. If you are able to let the small stuff go, you will waste a lot less emotional energy on things that don’t really matter. You will be able to survive any tragedies that come your way. If you don’t sweat the small stuff you will have the emotional space for the things that really do matter… your loves, your passions, your joys.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #2 ~ Serve Your Country

In the news lately has been the story of an extraordinary coach at a little college in New York, Maritime in the Bronx. Clayton Kendrick-Holmes’ players wear principles on their jerseys instead of names; “family”, “respect”, “honesty”, etc. And he has led his unknown team to a potential championship. He learned, in July, that he was being called up by the Navy (he is a reservist) to serve in Afghanistan. He doesn’t think of himself as extraordinary and he did not question his deployment, it is what he signed up for.

Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. It is clear that you are not likely to be a soldier, you are not a fighter, like your mother you are an arguer, a word person. But freedom has, historically, required soldiers. I served, your grandfathers served, Ruben and Big Mike served. That requires respect.

Not all policemen are honest, not all firemen are brave. But those who serve in these direct ways deserve the ultimate respect. They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us. Not all service demands such great sacrifice. But most service demands some sacrifice, of time, of money, of self.

But there are many ways of soldiering. All over America kids are earning college scholarships by giving back, working for Americorps or Vista, helping with the environment, public safety, literacy, housing, poverty, to name just a few. Some are working with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for low income families. Some work with kids at the local library, upgrading literacy skills. Others serve in their churches, mosques and temples, volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

As great as the need is worldwide, and it is great indeed, there is great need here at home as well. You know I believe that you should always ask questions of authority, develop your own ideas and talk about them. Our democracy gives you the freedom to do those things. No matter how much you disagree with our leaders, current policies or the way in which others see things, the very right to disagree, out loud and in public, is the freedom you have here that so many others don’t. Freedoms have a price. For soldiers it may be their lives, for others time or money.

So remember, it is important to give back in some way, to express your gratitude in a concrete manner for the “blessings of liberty” which are not equally enjoyed yet in this country. Like the coach who found a way to serve before he was called up, serve willingly. To help make those blessings equal, to provide for those less fortunate, is a worthy endeavor, however you choose to do it.

Things Your Dogs Want You To Know #1 ~ Borax, Vacuums and Responsibility

We had a series of wonderful dogs when you were growing up. All rescued, don’t forget that.

Max was your yellow lab. When your father and I were first together we used to visit a farm where they raised sheep and bred yellow labrador retrievers. Max was to be their new breeding sire, he was young and beautiful. We played with him every time we went and we told them we wanted a puppy from the first litter. Just before they were ready, it turned out that the new bitch had hip dysplasia and they decided it was time to retire from breeding. We got a call. They wanted Max to have a good home with loving people and they offered him to us!

Max was amazing, although at first he didn’t care for being left during the day. He ate my good work shoes to show me, and the remote control to show daddy how he felt about it. When you were born he slept in our room, as he had always done. From the day you moved to your bedroom he slept in your room until the day he died; he guarded you like gold. Max had a heart the size of Montana, he was run over several times, almost died, but kept on going.

Then there was Quincy, the adopted golden retriever. The story is complicated but the short version is that Grandma Joan got him after her ex moved to the house at the end of the driveway. Since Quincy didn’t know him, he would bark like a crazy dog every time he came out of the house. He offered to pay Quincy’s airfare if Grandma would send him to us, which she did. Quincy was a good dog. His best day in New Mexico was the day the the chicken fell out of the sky… but that’s a story for another day.

And then there was Jericho the border collie, who was really your dog. After Quincy died and our Aussie puppy was stolen, Bob and Dolly brought him home from Texas for you. Of course they didn’t ask us. They invited us over for dinner and after dinner they said, oh, we have a surprise. They let him out and he ran into your arms and it was all over. His white patches were red from being tied out in the Texas red clay and he was a sorry sight. You gave him his “bible” name because it was what you were doing in Sunday school! And he was beautiful when we cleaned him up. Jericho was afraid of a lot, especially that “vacuum monster”, but he was the most loving dog that ever was.

From the time you were just a little bit your job in the house was to feed the dogs. Responsibility for other living things can begin at a very young age. Even a toddler can scoop out a cup of kibble and put it in a bowl. Of course you ate your fair share (yuck). This remains your job, although now it’s just cats. Your pets taught you some important lessons over the years.

Loyalty, devotion and fun, these are all things that a dog brings to your life. They are good things to have whether you have a dog or not. You can learn more about unconditional love from a dog than almost anywhere else in life. The vacuum won’t hurt you even if it makes a big noise, that is a good thing to know, especially once you live alone. Borax laundry booster kills fleas, also very good to know. Sprinkle it on carpets and mattresses, it kills most any kind of bugs (not bedbugs, unfortunately). And it doesn’t hurt the other living things. Most important, remember that your pets are not able to feed themselves, just as your babies wont be. Your daddy told you when you were just a tyke, feed the helpless first, then yourself. Your dog needs you for survival and trusts you with his life, the least you can do is feed him on time.