For the record, I’m no more comfortable with Father’s Day than I am with Mother’s Day. But I’ve said my piece, so no need to rehash it.
You learned about Dad’s wedding last week (Going to the Chapel). Fast forward to five kids later. When I was growing up, he was usually busy with something. “Free time” was in short supply, though I recall a game of Careers with him one Saturday morning. Of course, he dozed off (he was lying on the couch with the board on the floor), but he worked hard, and he was tired! I can’t begrudge him that.
He ran his rug cleaning business out of our home (Taxes), so even if he was working late, I could run down to say goodnight. I still get nostalgic at the scent of cleaning solvents . . . and I learned how to roll up area rugs like a pro before I started school. Yeah, he could manage them by himself, but an extra pair of hands never hurt. And maybe I got to stay up a bit later . . .
Weekends frequently involved taking care of yard work and home maintenance–after business matters! I quickly learned the best way to snag time with him was to tag along. So Saturday mornings there’d be a trip to the bank, and frequently a stop at Holland Hardware to pick up whatever was needed for that day’s project. Buying spray paint? It was my job to shake the can all the way home. I learned about tools–what they were called and how they were used. Sometimes I even scored a trip up to the roof of the house! When my parents bought the bungalow next door for a rental house, I learned about hanging wallpaper, transplanting bushes, and weeding.
Of course, Dad didn’t always work! He showed me how to make huts back in the pasture (open land behind our backyard) with the branches trimmed from the trees, and leaves piled on. We even made an A-frame hut with scrap lumber and the old storm windows from our front porch when Dad made new ones. What girl doesn’t need her own A-frame?
Then there were kite-flying lessons. No small balls of kite string in our house. Dad would let me use an almost empty spool of waxed carpet thread. He’d slide an 18-inch length of 1″x1″ pine through the center of the spool for handles. Man, those kites flew up! No matter how far we let them out, we never ran out of string, and the string rarely broke. One spring we had the brilliant idea to buy a box kite. Mistake! I don’t think we ever got that sucker up in the air, much as we tried. Whatever the trick is, we never discovered it.
Aside from life lessons learned from kite-flying (or failing!) and wallpaper-hanging, Dad made sure I could take care of myself. The spring I was in Driver’s Ed, he made me change the snow tires to regular tires on the 1967 Galaxie 500 AND the 1973 Pinto. This was before the days of front wheel drive and all-weather tires. I got to jack up each car, undo the lug nuts, remove each wheel (easy!), mount the new ones (harder!) and tighten them all up again. I had no excuse to be a “damsel in distress” if I got a flat. He also had me under the hood, learning how to check the oil, fill washer fluid, and know what the basic car parts were (long before engines were computerized–when the workings were simpler!). I am no mechanic, but can at least talk to one and not sound like a total idiot–or be completely clueless.
Dad was certainly no feminist, but long before women’s rights was a “thing,” he didn’t restrict my sister or me to typical gender roles. We weren’t trying to get on the boys’ football or basketball teams, but Math and Science were necessary classes for the two of us. Home-Economics-type things we could learn from Mom. Finances and investing? Mandatory! You already heard about my doing my own tax returns. I was a 22-year-old on my first job shaking my head over older co-workers who didn’t want to tie up $2000 each year in an IRA account.
Hair-brained, off-the-wall interests? Those were encouraged and supported, if it was feasible. I remember getting hooked on astronomy as a kid and wanting to build a device to measure altitude and azimuth of stars. The book I was reading showed one. Dad helped me cut out and paint a plywood base, figure out how to measure and mark the 360 degrees around that base, and build the post sticking up (paint stirring stick) with a movable protractor, straw, and sinker on a string for finding the altitude. Did it ever get used? Unfortunately, no, because after completion we realized:
- we had no level place to set it during use, and more importantly
- there were too many trees and buildings to be able to do much with it!
Oops! Regardless, we had fun, and I learned a lesson about building things–and maybe to think through the plan a little better, next time.
Did I learn everything in life from Dad? No. But caught or taught, I learned a lot of important things from him. Definitely time well spent. Thanks, Dad!