Lessons from my Father
I grew up in a household with an incredible man. A man who taught me so many lessons, even if he didn't know he was teaching them. Like many kids, I grew up in absolute love with my dad - he was gentle, kind and full of light. My dad was the fun dad - if we went swimming as a group he was the dad throwing all of the kids like cannons from one end of the pool to the other. He had room in his heart for every child, every person. I remember once asking him why he doesn't hunt or if he ever wanted to and he told me that it hurt him too much to take life from something. He was someone I went to for advice, looked to for behaviour and loved like nothing else.
I don't write about him too often, maybe because it's hard and it hurts, maybe because of later life decisions - here's one for him and a handful of the things he taught me.
Acceptance: I honestly can't think of a time when my dad didn't include someone, befriend someone or practice kindness with someone. He had this smile and laugh, sort of a mixture of the two that came out when he met someone and always had a joke or a line to let them know they had a shared commonality. I learned from him that everyone is a potential friend and that everyone deserves our kindness, even if they don't seem to. He taught me that all ideas have value and that there is beauty in allowing other's to share theirs. That people don't always think or believe the same things but that doesn't mean we can't get along.
Patience: I don't think I have a single memory of my dad so much as raising his voice. He was calm and patient. My dad taught me that there is a difference between being right and being happy. That knowing our own truth is more important than convincing someone else of it. He taught me that we are in control of our emotions and reactions - that we don't need to let others define how we will react in any given situation and that in many cases being angry or jealous, rude or unkind is not a valuable use of our energy.
I consider myself to share a lot of qualities with my dad - I think he passed on a lot of himself to me. That being said - the greatest lesson that he ever taught me was likely not intentional. About sixteen years ago my father left. We were all away visiting family in Ontario for Christmas and when we came home he was gone. I had known for a long time that my parents weren't happy like a couple should be, but we were all still surprised by his departure. This remains one of the most devastating events in my life but it also has been a source of constant learning for me.
Build a Life you Love: Perhaps the most valuable lesson that my father taught me - through his actions - is to build a life you love. My dad has many great qualities, a couple listed above, but for a long time he lived them to a fault. When my dad left it taught me the value of not just knowing my truth, but living my truth, and while I would never make the decision he did, I see what happened. I see that he, at some point, stopped questioning 'why' when something rubbed him the wrong way - he stopped living his truth. Being similar to him I can tell you how hard it is to move a thought into a word, especially when you know it may ruffle a few feathers. I know how unnatural it can feel to push back, even with the most gentle of voices, when something doesn't sit right. But like him, I never want to live a life that isn't my truth.
So Dad, if you're reading this, thank you. Thank you for the qualities that you passed on and established in me, for your patience, your kind heart and your gentle nature. Your ability to be a friend, your light and your purposely slow to react personality. I am the person I am because of these things. Maybe you didn't know what other way to do it - thank you for teaching me through even your hardest of decisions. I love you, and I know you know that, because we both know that love transcends time, it transcends absence and it never goes away. I could never reflect on the things that have shaped me without you. Thank you of giving us what you could, when you could.