Things My Dad Taught Me
By Holly Carrington
If you have seen a guy in Lenexa, walking vigorously, sometimes with a coffee in his hand, you might have caught a glimpse of my dad.
He drove the first Toyota minivan on the market, its bold brass color and mini-vac shape quickly became legendary in our neighborhood. He drove it until it could no longer be driven and this is one of the many lessons I learned from him. Treat things with respect and take care of them. He never really sat down and drilled that into my brain; he usually just demonstrates that in his everyday life.
He is blessed with the beautiful gift of patience. As a pre-teen, I had braces and my orthodontist was on the second floor of a bank. Having read about an elevator crash, I insisted we take the stairs. Every single time. I had buck teeth like you wouldn’t believe and a lovely space between them, so imagine how often we had to go. And every visit, he'd slowly walk up the flight of stairs with me, with nary a word of complaint.
He talked with his mother every Sunday on the phone until she died, spending hours listening and supporting her. He is the guy behind the curtain, letting all of us shine, be neurotic and fail, and all the while, he'll cheer us on and encourage us to try again. I learn so much from him.
A St. Louis native, he also taught me that a little White Castle never hurt anyone. And to carry pepper spray. He worked in administration at hospitals and retirement homes. He emphasized that it's important to work hard and find joy in what you do and to save and spend responsibly. He says you can't take it with you. I need to remember this more.
He loves trains and traveling, often going on sight-seeing adventures across the country with my mom. We didn't have cool clothes or expensive haircuts growing up — he saved up so he could show us different places. He doesn't need a lot of gadgets, splurging only once in a while for a GPS unit or good walking shoes.
He volunteers every Tuesday at a local food pantry. Though fairly quiet, he becomes gregarious around the other volunteers and can be relied on to complete every task, fill every bag, stock every can without fail. He follows through. Oh, I still have so much learn.
And sometimes it's the things he didn't do that help define what kind of father he is. He didn't push me too hard in sports or live vicariously through my or my brother's activities. He didn't drink or smoke. He didn't ever make us wonder if we were important to him or if he loved our mom.
Some people don’t have a father in their lives, some people don’t get along with theirs, and some people miss their fathers every day because they are defending our freedom. My wish would be for everyone to have a father like mine or like my husband is to our daughter. I know I’m so very lucky. To me, a father is someone who is protective, who works hard, who would go above and beyond for his family. To me, a father is someone who brings his family together, and who can rough house with children and at once be an overgrown kid and a full-grown man. See? My dad also taught me to set my standards pretty high.
And now, he's a papa to my daughter. Sometimes I catch my breath, almost overwhelmed when I watch them together. There are shadows of his father on his face, in his silliness, his loving look. My daughter waits anxiously to see what he'll do next. And so do I.