It’s Fathers Day. I’m in a plane to Denver for business and I got to thinking about what we learn from our Fathers and what we hope our kids learn from us.
I lost my father when I was 17. I’d gone through a rough patch in middle school. Hanging with “the wrong crowd” etc. It was Southern California through the 60’s and 70’s. Everyone in my middle school had one goal. To grow up to be a Hippie. We were too young to hit that mark, but we all yearned. Greg Munoz was the coolest kid in junior high because he had long hair, wore headbands and knee high fringed moccasins to school.
We all wanted knee high fringed moccasins…
So I look back at how my father handled my wayward yearnings and I see where he did a lot of things that took him out of the “friend” category and put him in the “father” category.
Probably the biggest thing that I took with me was karate. When I was ten, they gave me a choice of karate lessons or guitar. It was one or the other. Money didn’t fall out of the sky. I picked karate figuring that if I ever got in a bad place with bad people, karate would get me out in one piece more than a guitar would.
Decent logic I think.
So all through junior high and into high school, when my heathen friends were out robbing houses, breaking things and causing havoc, I was at karate. Three nights a week for two hours each, he drove me across town and patiently sat waiting in the lobby. I will never forget how proud he was when I got my Black Belt at 15. The local papers did a story. He beamed. I’d accomplished something he never could. He grew up in Northern California during the Depression and lessons for anything were out of reach for him.
Without him getting between me and whatever stupid pitfalls were outside, I never could have done it. It’s something I will carry with me always and always be thankful to him for this.
And really, when it comes to regrets, I think my greatest is that he died without knowing how important that became in my life. I never really got to thank him.
There are other things that I learned from him. It wasn’t the lectures that stuck. It was what I observed. The stories he told me about dealing with people. I read between the lines and heard the messages that came out in everyday conversation. And I learned a lot. He had a deep sense of justice and a distrust of what others tried to foist onto him.
He didn’t care much for authority figures or dogmas, be they government, religious or that uncomfortable mix of both. He had his own internal moral compass that he followed that proved to be superior. I learned that from him and I suspect I’ve passed it down to my own kids. Just because someone has a badge or a robe doesn’t mean you have to trust blindly what they say. It must pass your own litmus test first.
So thanks Dad. You’ve been gone since 1975, but you’re still here with me.