2. Everyone should have a sense of humor and use it often.
3. Encourage your child to ask questions about life, and then have the patience to answer honestly. If the question is about sex, give an honest, straightforward answer. Then shrug your shoulders and add (with wonder in your voice), “That’s the way God made it, and it works!”
4. My father was a man’s man, a one-time boxer, a former Nebraska Cornhusker football player, an ex WWII marine. But he was also a talented artist and in many ways so much more intuitive than most of the women I knew that for most of my childhood, I thought the stereotype of creative woman/pragmatic man was a joke. I learned that the best people go against stereotypes.
5. Lying is okay if it’s done out of genuine love. When I asked my father if he was sorry he didn’t have a son, he grimaced with mock horror and asked, “What would I want with icky boys when I have the three best daughters in the world?!” Of course I knew he was lying. But how I loved him for it.
6. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t say that speak the loudest. When I asked him about WWII, he got that look and got way too quiet. And then he’d perk up and say, “Here’s a funny story….” He’d tell things like the time he was supposed to swab the deck and got the “bright idea” to clean the mops by tying them to a rope behind the ship, without thinking about the fact that they had metal on the handles that would set off the torpedo warnings. When I got done laughing, I was left contemplating that prologue of silence. It was the things he didn’t say about the war that made me ache.
7. Small people put others down in order to feel bigger. Big people lift others up because they have the strength to spare. They know how to be humble. They admit they have faults and know how to laugh at themselves.
8. Absolutely the best gift a man can give his daughter? His respect. Not for the way she looks, but for her mind and her soul. Because of course men who are confident enough to be able to love and respect strong women are the best men there are. And I don’t mean in that slightly cheesy, “I am excessively chivalrous” way that’s really an excuse to posture. I could have an intellectual conversation with my father or just be silly. He worked in local politics toward the end of his life. At his funeral, a female politician approached me and told me all the things she admired about my dad. But the thing that struck her on the deepest level was what set him apart from all the rest. “Your father was the only man of his era I’ve ever known who genuinely knew how to treat women as his equal.” She was right. I’ve always cherished both that truth and her gift of putting it into words.
9. The most important thing really is being there.
10. There is a great deal to be said for having nothing left to say when it’s time to die. Sometimes you have to greet each other by your nicknames, do the “secret handshake,” and know that’s the best goodbye there is.
Miss him? Yep. Happy Father’s Day.