Lessons My Dad Taught Me

My dad has always been a very special person in my world. He’s fun and open-hearted, and can talk to anyone, anytime.

Up until he retired (not that many years ago), he spent his entire life as a farmer. He didn’t just want to be a farmer, he needed to be a farmer. He loved farming, loved the land, and loved his family. All three were intermingled and entwined. Farming was as essential to him as air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. It was never a job to him. It was a way of life. His life – and all he ever wanted to do or be.

I suppose it’s in his blood. My grandpa was a farmer. My great-grandpas were farmers. My great-great-grandpas… you get the idea. In Dad’s high school yearbook under the line that asked what he planned to be, he simply listed a farmer.

Growing up, if I wanted to spend time with my dad (which I most always did unless there was a really good book calling my name), I went with him. I had my own special pillow and blanket I took in the semi-truck when dad would deliver a load of hay to a buyer. I think the guys who worked the parts counter at the John Deere dealership as well as the tire store all knew me by name since I often accompanied Dad when he had to run to town for parts or repairs. He almost always bought an icy cold glass bottle of Coca Cola from the vending machine and we’d share it while we waited for his parts order to be filled. There probably weren’t too many farmers with a 4-year-old in pigtails asleep on a pink gingham blanket at their feet while they swathed hay. But my dad always welcomed me to tag along.

I’m sure there were a multitude of times I was underfoot and in the way, but Dad never made it seem that way. Instead, he taught me valuable life lessons.

What I learned growing up on the farm can’t be taught in a classroom. You can’t glean them from a Google search, and you can’t duplicate them without the experience that goes along with the lessons. Daddy taught me by example. By watching him, day after day, pour his all into what he loved, I learned so many life lessons that have served me well over the years. When people call me tenacious, I smile, because I learned it from my dad.

Today, in honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d share five important lessons I learned from Dad.

    1. Responsibility — Through years of watching my dad shoulder the responsibility of a busy farm and the people who lived there, I learned to be responsible for my thoughts, actions, and choices. His example taught me if you make a bad decision, you have to own it. If you make a good one, it’s yours to celebrate. If you hurt someone, apologize. Fail or succeed, win or lose — take responsibility for yourself.
    2. Loyalty — My dad is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever known. He will defend, protect, encourage, and love friends and family until his last breath. Nothing will change that. Once you are under his wings, you are there for life.
    3. Trustworthy — Dad is a believer in the thought that a man is only a good as his word. He taught me to be one, too. When a promise is made, keep it. If you can’t, don’t make it in the first place. Always be a person people can trust, believe in, and depend on.
    4. Organized — While I wouldn’t go so far as to say Dad is a neat freak, he has mad organizational skills. From him, I learned how to keep things neat and tidy (and how much time that saves when you know where everything is and it is in its place.) He also taught me how to pack things, whether it’s a suitcase, a pickup load of boxes, or a storage shed full of stuff. Thanks to him, I see getting the most stuff in the smallest area as a puzzle to be solved instead of an impossible challenge.
    5. Perseverance — On the farm, quitting was never an option. If things weren’t going just like you wanted them to, throwing your hands up in the air and walking away wasn’t going to cut it. Dad taught me to figure out how to make things work. To never give up. To come at things from a different angle or perspective to figure them out. Since he grew up in the depression years, he often operated on the philosophy of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” And he also employed the mindset of working hard if you want something. If you want it badly enough, you’ll work that much harder for it until you reach your goal. Dad was almost always the first one up and the last one to bed, often working before daylight and after dark. He persevered even when he was tired because he believed in the farm and he loved his work.
    6. Procrastination — Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” My dad subscribed to that theory and taught me to do the same. If you tackle the biggest thing you don’t want to do first thing in the morning and get it out of your way, the rest of the day seems pretty easy. And once the work is done, there’s plenty of time for play. I remember so clearly one 4th of July we were supposed to go to my aunt’s house for a barbecue and then the community parade afterward. It was haying season and there was so much work to do, but Dad was up super-early and was literally running from one thing to the next to get everything done so we could leave on time.
    7. Joy — Dad is one of the friendliest people I know and he loves to be around people. He taught me what I know about being gracious and kind. Additionally, he loves to laugh, to share funny stories, to make people smile. When I would go along with him as a child, people always seemed so genuinely pleased to see him. That hasn’t changed over the years. My dad has always been good at spreading a little joy wherever he goes.

This list could continue on and on, but I’ll stop there for today. I’ve been truly blessed to have a caring, loving dad who had the patience to let a shy little girl tag after him while learning lessons she’ll never forget.

Happy Father’s Day!

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