Things My Father Taught Me.

Let’s talk about Father’s Day.

More specifically, let’s talk about what Father’s Day means to someone raised primarily by their mother and whose father died in 1998.

I’ve written about my dad before, about missing him and remembering the circumstances surrounding his death. I can be kind of a downer that way. Instead, I’d like to celebrate his life and share some of the wonderful things he taught me, so maybe you can get to know him in a more positive light.

“You REALLY like to sing, don’t you.”

When my parents divorced, my sister and I went to live with our mother. We called Daddy every night to tell him about our day and fill him in on all the latest middle-school gossip. I would emphatically tell him about the boy I liked, and then I’d tell him I’d grow up to be a singer. Then, before he had a chance to get a word in, I would start singing whatever song I was obsessed with that day (usually something by the Spice Girls). My voice was TERRIBLE when I was little. Without six hours a day of practice, I’m not kidding you, I couldn’t sing for shit. But he never showed it. No, he would tell me it was lovely, tell me to keep singing. If it made me happy, then I should continue.

My mother ignited the spark of music, and my father fanned the flame. So I’m thankful.

“You can’t please everybody.”

I think everyone learns this one, but it was drilled into my head repeatedly for as long as I can remember. My dad would sit me on his knee and tell me sagely that I should never endeavor to please anybody but myself because someone will always be put out by anything I do. It’s human nature. One person will approve and the other will disapprove but at the end of the day, if I’m happy with myself, that’s all that really matters.

This has led to some of the riskiest, most wonderful decisions of my life. When I moved to Toronto at 19, a lot of people questioned my decision. After all, I was from a tiny town in Newfoundland, and even when I got older my apartment was only fifteen minutes away from my mother. Most folks didn’t think I could handle a move that big, but I did it anyway because I wanted to. If Daddy hadn’t told me to ignore other people and go with my gut, I never would have done that.

“Never start a fight, but if someone else starts one, FINISH IT.”

My mom is definitely the peacemaker in the family. When faced with conflict, she weighs the pros and cons of making a fuss and usually the cons win out and she lets it go. In reality, this is a great trait to have, because picking your battles often means you’ll win the ones you choose because they’re the ones you truly believe in. My dad, on the other hand, was a bit hot blooded and had a temper. I’ve inherited some of that temper, but I never forget the lesson he taught me. If something pisses me off (and I work in service, so this happens daily), I remember to take a moment to assess whether the fight is worth it. If it is, then I go full throttle, courtesy of my father. He tried to teach me to stand up for myself and although it took me a long time to figure that out, I never back down now.

Our time together was way too short, but nonetheless my father had a huge impact on the direction of my life. Remembering that he only had a short time on earth and most likely didn’t get to accomplish all the things he thought he would quells any of my fear about taking leaps of faith and trying something new. He made me braver, more confident, and more willing to stand up for myself as well as other people. He was a fantastic artist, often drawing intricate landscapes and making pincushions out of cola cans, using pliers and his hands to twist the metal tendrils into swirls until they took the shape of a chair. One day my sister and I surprised him at his house and he was in the middle of making us jewelry boxes out of popsicle sticks. He implored us not to look at them since they weren’t finished, but I took a peek anyway. He was in the process of gluing sparkly hearts onto the lids as embellishments. They were beautiful.

He was a great man, my father. No matter how much time has passed, I still see him standing on his deck, cigarette in hand, weight on one leg, staring out into the sea. His eyes were the same color as the ocean; the same color as mine. I’d give anything to know what was going on behind them, but I’ll settle for the image of him at peace, still waiting for my sister and I to stop by and tell him stories.

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Sorting out my life by writing about it.

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