Thinking About Dad
With Father’s Day this weekend, I was tasked with reflecting about my own dad and thinking about some of the quirky wisdom that he has shared with me over the years. I came up with a few anecdotes about my dad that I think about often. If you’re lucky enough to share this Father’s Day with your old man, I hope you soak up their stories, laugh at their jokes, and let them know how much they mean to you.
We all know about “The Talk.” Explaining the birds and the bees is a particularly uncomfortable experience for all participants. I had a pretty boiled down version of this right of passage from my dad. It was early on in high school, I had a rather wispy yet dark mustache coming in that my older brother decided to focus his abuse on. Having had enough of his cruelty, I asked my dad if I could borrow his razor to take care of my fuzzy upper lip. He of course lent me his razor for this first shave. I lathered up the strip of skin under my nose and gave the razor a few passes under the warm water. I had seen my dad do this many mornings growing up and had seen it enough on tv commercials to feel pretty confident about the process. As I began to shave, my dad walked by the bathroom and asked “You know what you’re doing, right?” And that, ladies and gentlemen, was “The Talk.” Not the most loquacious of explanations, but my reply of “uh, yeah” was sufficient for us both to go on our merry way. Perhaps the conversation was more elaborate for my older brother (who would graciously fill in some of the gaps, when asked, sure, but most often in an unsolicited fashion).
Baseball has always been a special part of my relationship with my dad. One summer evening heading to a minor league ball game, we made a detour through his old neighborhood. This was where he grew up--just a couple blocks from the stadium, he would play baseball himself in the field just past the outfield walls as a youngster. During this detour I remember him waving at a man sitting on a front stoop. I asked, “do you know that guy?” to which he replied “well, he was a kid when I was kid.” This line of quintessential dadness has stuck with me for decades now and it still makes me laugh. Baseball is still something we bond over and, whenever I’m able to go home, we still head out to the yard to play catch.
Learning to drive in a manual transmission pick-up truck in the hills of western North Carolina was a harrowing experience for both of us. Those weeks of grinding gears, stalling out, and revving my way out of uphill starts were probably harder on my dad than the truck. I think this step along the road of growing up is hard on a dad. It meant I wasn’t going to be his co-pilot for much longer, that the chances to quiz me on who was playing over the radio wouldn’t last forever, and the game we made out of me shifting while he engaged the clutch was over.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have a dad like mine. When I think about my dad, and, perhaps, most dads, I come up with the idea of him being my most reliable teacher. He taught me to love the outdoors and nature, taught me how to work hard, taught me about good music. I could probably trace most everything I’m passionate about back to my dad. I guess my example of “The Talk” doesn’t do my dad’s ability to teach justice, but in so many other areas he was, and still is, an incredible teacher.Written by Stephen McNeal