Stuff I learned from my dad, but didn’t appreciate ‘til later.


Father’s day is the opportunity to reflect on the dads in our lives and the lessons we learned explicitly or not. There’s the dumb jokes, socks in the sandals and failed attempts at a mustache, obsession with enough fiber, and other quirky things that stick out.

Now well into my own adulthood, I have a fresh appreciation of the things he was trying in his own way to teach and model.

Dads are easy targets. We all have one. Fatherhood as a meaningful societal topic has been seriously downgraded by decades of comedic ridicule. Whether it’s Fred Flintstone, Archie Bunker, Homer Simpson, or Peter Griffin, media dads are consistently portrayed as inept, overweight simpletons who bumble through life in varying degrees of self-inflicted crisis or dysfunction.

Essential dad qualities like character, integrity, deep care for their family, self- sacrifice and hard work seem in short supply in media portrayal.

For most of my growing up years, my dad was austere and somewhat distant. He had grown up in a devout, disciplinarian, matriarchal somewhat dysfunctional family. He was the only son in a family with five sisters. Grandchildren (like me) were considered second class citizens to seen and not heard. 

I was a precocious and rambunctious kid, continually getting into things. By all standards, I had a great childhood, but it seemed like I was always in on the verge or in some sort of trouble. Approval or any display of affection was in short supply. That was his way. It was how he was raised.

It wasn’t easy for him. The war years hijacked his career ambitions of being an educator. He tackled a variety of jobs to make ends meet. There was a failed attempt of making a go with the family farm, then hardware store manager, itinerant heavy duty mechanic for farm equipment and then chicken farming and egg production. It wasn’t ‘til his early forties that he revived his dream of being a teacher and we moved cross country to a new job in Ontario.

As I moved through my teens and young adulthood there was a gradual softening and growing acceptance. By my late twenties, we had a valued friendship with genuine dialogue. We enjoyed time together.

These days, being a dad myself, I’ve come to appreciate the deeper life lessons that were imprinted earlier on.

I learned relentless consistency, especially on things that are important. This life lesson has broad application leading to good results in so many areas. For him, it was regular oil and filter changes and regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance as per the manufacturers’ guide.

Long after he wasn’t able to drive and the memory was getting sketchy, I’d get quizzed on whether various vehicle things had been properly looked after.

I learned to work hard. He worked hard at whatever he set his hand to. Today’s information age seems to offer a “life-hack” for just about everything. The never changing reality is that most things that are valuable come on the other side of a ton of just plain hard work.

I learned to love deeply. Dad’s relationship with mom was a 70-year love affair. They both acknowledged having viable “other options” when it came to life partners. Well into their eighties, it was an on-going inside joke for them as they speculated about how things might be different if they had decided on marrying so and so. Invariably this conversation would dissolve in laughter.

He gave me versatility and grit. He taught me by example that with intention, focus, patience, and determination I could master new competencies. His forays into various jobs and enterprises were born of necessity.  I meanwhile, had the blessings of many options.

There are many other things, too many to enumerate.

God blessed me with a great dad and I’m grateful.