I’ve always believed that the first act of absolute surrender humans make happens very early in life. When babies are born into the world, they cannot choose the family they are born into.
Juliana and I play this little game. When she tells me she loves me very much I ask her this: if God made you choose your mommy and you had to go through a whole line of mommies you could take home and call your own, will you still choose me? “Yes, mama,” she answers as she rushes into my arms in a tight embrace, as if to say “why do you even think these things?” Then she showers my face with little butterfly kisses and gushes on and on about how, even blindfolded, she will be able to find me and how she will build a pink house for me when I am too old to walk.
That pretty much sums up how I feel about my own parents, and today being Father’s Day, I would like to share some lessons Daddy taught me along life’s way.
Thank you, Dad, for all these, plus more:
1.We always ate all our meals together as a family, we watched films on VHS and Betamax, we prayed the rosary together nightly (okay, that was more mom than you), we went to the rocky beach in Albuera on weekends, we always pretty much moved through life as a single unit. I thought this was the norm for all families but I am finding as my world gets bigger that it is not. And all the more now I appreciate the joys of belonging to a close-knit family. It is a gift that keeps on giving. A lot of the memories I made growing up revolved around the time we all spent together. I try my best everyday to do the same with my own family, Dad. All these years you’ve shown me and my siblings, alongside Mommy, that it is what truly matters. My day can get all crazy and busy but knowing I have a family to go home to is a balm that never fails to heal and soothe.
2. You are 71 years old already, yet you’ve never dyed your hair. Not once. Yes, you do dye your beard every once in a while but you still have a full head of thick black hair peppered only with a little gray here and there. Mommy says you are her own Benjamin Button. You’ve never allowed stress to get the better of you, you’ve never lost sleep over anything. Thank you for always reminding me, as you continue to lead by example, that worry should have no place in one’s life. Once you’ve done your best and committed all else to God, a person has every right to claim and enjoy a good night’s rest and when you wake up, cruise in that elusive ship also known as peace of mind. Why do I have to complicate things by worrying about most everything? I’m trying, I am still a work in progress in that department. But if I can be half as good as you are at it I will be so happy!
3. At the dinner table, once when I was just a newlywed, you wondered out loud how people nowadays always say, “I’ll give you a call next week,” “let’s get together sometime,” “let’s do this-or-that” yet never follow through with it. Words are thrown so loosely, used to end a conversation, when it does not have to be that way. I never forgot that. Thank you for pointing out to me that something I learned back in kindergarten should still hold true to this day — that I mean what I say and say what I mean and life becomes simpler that way.
4. People always say I am thoughtful. I never gave a conscious thought to that. But I realize now that a lot of that I got from you and Mom. After all, nothing comes from nothing. To this day, you shower your loved ones with practical gifts, little thingamajigs that show you care — pocket flashlights that the best forest rangers would love to have, Swiss knives, hammers, and screw drivers that feed my hunger to fix and hang things around the house. You were our very own McGyver even before he became a household name! You still buy me mechanical pencils and ink pens and highlighters and I love that you somehow know I never quite outgrew those. You still buy me my favorite fruits and snacks and leave them on my desk for me to find after a long day’s work. Thank you for always gently reminding me that gifts need not always be fancy to be appreciated. They can be wonderfully thoughtful and the message is brought across even more meaningfully.
5. You are the most sensible person I know. You always bought us well-made shoes, you always taught us to keep an eye out for what is durable as opposed to what is just beautiful. Your standards have become my gauge when buying luggage, vehicles, wallets, shoes, even watches. My first grownup watch was from you. It wasn’t exactly fancy but you chose it because the quality was good. True to form, it still works to this day, perfect as it tick-tocks round the clock. I cannot count the number of times I said no to ridiculously expensive items of clothing or accessories, and felt good about it, mainly because I could already picture clearly in my mind’s eye how you would most probably shake your head in bemusement at the extravagance of it all. I know you would never fault me for it but somehow I could not, in conscience, push through with the purchase. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me how to not be a slave to brands. And thank you for showing me all these years just how little we really need and how life can still be beautiful without the trappings of so much material stuff.
6. You are the most conscientious person I know. You always wrote down everything you needed to remember — dates, chores, things to buy — and really, it does make one more efficient. I am a believer/fan of lists and they go a long way in terms of helping organize my mind. I get a tangible sense of fulfillment in crossing out at the end of the day all the items that I was able to successfully accomplish and carry out.
7. “The best management is the farmer’s footprints.” I heard that a lot growing up and especially when the boys were big enough to actively help you take care of the farm. You espoused being hands-on, and achieving that level where you know the ins and outs of the business like the back of your hand. I think about that kind of commitment and how it should be the standard when going into any sort of entrepreneurship. There is no substitute for that.
8. Treat the help like family, always. And when we love them, they love us right back, oftentimes in even greater measure. Those friendships, the ties built with them all these years, have enriched our lives and our memories.
9. Be happy with what you have, where you are. We stayed for the most part of our growing-up years in the province but you and Mom never once made us feel that life would be better in the bigger cities. We made the best of what was immediately available there and those years, wonderful and fun as they were, were also lessons in simplicity, gratitude, and grace.
Be kind to animals. You always treated our dogs like friends and even the dogs of Richard, Matt and Juliana you love. You treat them like your children, too, coming home from the grocery and the mall with food and personal effects for them. Dogs can teach humans poignant lessons in kindness, too.
These are but 10 of the many things I continue to learn from you, nuggets of wisdom I carry preciously in my pocket, with the conscious effort of passing them on to my own little girl every chance I get.
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