I can’t claim that I am a great dad, and my relationship with my own father was never like the families I saw around me. But I'm older now, grayer and a little more pudgy. I can look back and see how my dad taught me to be a better dad — and a better person.
My dad introduced me to nature and other things bigger than I
He took us kayaking on the Snake river and camping on the shores of the Mississippi. Though I am not much of a camper today I wouldn’t mind a drive through Star Valley, Jackson Hole or around the Palisades reservoir — frequent haunts of my father.
My dad taught me to appreciate everyday things.
“Look at that!” he’d say.
"It’s a cow," I would respond.
“Yes, but this is an Ida-wilda-cow and all the others we have seen today have been Bonneville Bovine. It’s rare to see an Ida-wilda-cow so far up north.”
“Yes, dad. Please turn up the radio."
I do the same thing with my kids and now my grandkids. They respond in much the same fashion only their music is played on much more sophisticated equipment.
“That’s just a cow — Grandpa. Please plug in my iPad."
My dad taught me to take opportunities when they present themselves
He did this by getting up at three in the morning because that was when our grey water turn began.
At three in the morning.
He took me with him to set the dams so that the field would be heavily soaked and would keep the crops comfy until our next water turn.
My dad taught me that people were important
He did this by telling me to "let the phone ring" when company was over.
“If it’s important, they’ll call back.” This was in the day of push button phones that had cords that attached them to the wall, which was shortly after phones that had a round plastic spinning dial.
They did call back. And they just kept calling.
Now, of course, I don’t ever answer the phone. We had our house phone discontinued years ago because we all have cell phones. My phone is right over... well, it was there by the... Will someone call my phone?
My father taught me that there are some things we do simply because we have to
— like paying the bills and brushing our teeth.
Lawns must be mowed and wood piles must be moved unless you turn the lawn into a flower garden and stack the wood correctly the first time. And the goats need to be fed or they will climb on the shed, jump over the fence and eat all your mother's peonies.
He made me go to church, which I still do. I pay most of my bills and I still brush my teeth — when I can find them.
My dad taught me that you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to eat
And if you roll up the cooked zucchini with tomato sauce or pork chops and hide them in the hems of the drapes, someone will find them someday, maybe three years later when the window dressings are dry-cleaned for a family reunion. By that time you can blame it on your little brother.
This he taught me inadvertently by making me sit there until my plate was empty.
My dad taught me that our demeanor affects everyone around us and that you can’t fake sincerity.
He had friends everywhere we went. As children we could count on an extra 15 minutes spent wherever we went because Dad would invariably know the clerk or the clerk's dad, or the clerk's boss. He had a smile and a wave for everyone.
We didn't always see eye to eye, my dad and I. We often still don't. But I know who he is and what he believes by how he lives his life. And I know where he keeps his stash of corn chips.