I think it’s easy – especially for daughters – to write about their moms. Hell, I just deleted 700 words about my mom. But it’s Father’s Day, and that seems as good a time as any to muse about what my dad has taught me. (Ed. note: this is not a comprehensive list. My dad has taught me a lot, but his daughter was not always the best at retaining these lessons)
1. Bridges Freeze Before Roads:
My dad is an engineer. Learning how to drive was first an education in how a car works. When you shift, what exactly was happening with the gears. How the oil worked to keep the engine from exploding. (I remember the explanation for none of these things. I… I am not an engineer.) Every time we would drive over a bridge in the winter, my dad would tell us again why bridges freeze before roads. To this day, I cannot drive over any bridge without thinking about it, and, if with others, piping up and letting them know: bridges freeze before roads because of REASONS.
2. Phil Spector and His Wall of Sound
My dad loves music. He would drive me to school on semi-frequently and we’d spend the 40 minute drive singing along to great stuff. I got an amazing music education on these rides: why you have to appreciate the early, Cream days of Clapton before you can even dive into Timepieces, Linda Ronstadt has some seriously questionable attitudes about men (see also: Stevie Nicks), Statler Brothers and Steely Dan were geniuses, real men sing along to Phantom and Les Mis with no hesitation, and Phil Spector was the first- and best- at creating that famed “Wall of Sound”. Years after I was kid, my brother and I were driving from DC to Maryland shore and he pulled out the Les Mis CDs to sing along to on our car trip. We both knew all the words. Our dad raised us with some great music.
3. Golf is ridiculous
Ok, this one I may have internalized far beyond his actual point, but my dad worked a lot, and I remembering him commenting that golf seemed like a sport for people trying to avoid their families on the weekend. It was probably a throw away comment he doesn’t even remember now, but I could see his point: he didn’t get a lot of time with us, in the grand scheme, so going to play a 6 hour game during the weekend wasn’t really a good plan. But to this day I have a completely adverse reaction to golf. I feel like that’s ok.
4. Speaking of working…
… my favorite way to spend Saturdays used to be to go hang out at my dad’s office while he worked. I had an old briefcase of his that I’d fill with coloring books and books and videos and I’d go entertain myself at the office while he worked. I loved it. I used to ask if we could go in, and if he wasn’t planning to go, I’d ask if he’d consider it. Now when I look back at this I think of a couple of things: a) I’ve been a dork for a lot longer than I realized, and like, damn, Liz, go find a playground and some friends, right? b) self-entertainment for the m-f’ing win. Damn, I was a kid content in my own head, for real. c) I was the only girl kid in my family, but at no point have I ever felt … like a girl, in this respect. I loved going in to the office with my dad. When I hear the wars waging about women in the workplace, and I feel in practice the discrimination, it’s all very real, but it never occurred to me I wouldn’t work. My dad used to say that he didn’t really like working weekends, but he did like being good at his job, and man if that doesn’t resonate me as an adult who works her share of weekends.
5. Stop being a pain
I think I was 17 when my dad told me “I’ll always love you, but I don’t always have to like you.” That was a really great – and deserved – way to tell me to stop being a such a pain in the ass. Not only does every 17 year old need to hear that they’re not such a special snowflake that their behavior doesn’t matter, but it’s helped me think about how I want my current family to feel about me. I know they love me. I want them to like me. It makes a difference in how I act. And I think that’s important.
6. Family is a choice you make
My dad and his brothers are great at keeping touch. All them used to move around a lot for work, and within six months of every move, each brother had gone to visit the new place. They might not have always gotten along, they aren’t each other’s best friends, but they like each other, and they stayed involved with each other lives. Purposefully. My cousins and I are very close, and I think this is a lot of learned behavior from our dads. In 2006 my cousin Chloe graduated from college, and on a whim a bunch of us drove up and down the east coast to be at her graduation. We took over her dorm and turned her grad party into a family reunion of sorts. It was great. We had a blast. Family can be a choice you make.
I could- and should – write more. There’s a never a good stopping point when trying to express everything a parent has taught you. But for now, I’ll think I’ll fire up some Billy Joel and give my dad a call.