Oh…dads. How can one person have so much knowledge and so many bad jokes at the same time? And yet, many of us have few sources of wisdom more valuable than our fathers.
In honor of Father’s Day and all the men who have made a difference in our lives, the MPD team would like to share some of the wisdom we’ve gleaned from these men over the years.
A couple of things I remember my Dad always saying:
“Mow the grass back and forth, not all willy nilly. And try not to get your foot cut off.”
“Start to save your money early in life.”
Well…I never cut my foot off.
I was pacing, talking on the phone, and on the verge of a breakdown. College was hard. Physics was harder, no matter how much I tried, which is why I was considering dropping the class. Thankfully, dads are good in situations like that, and mine was on the other end of the line listening to my concerns about the money and effort that had already gone into the class, only for me to quit. Instead of being disappointed, the following ensued:
“Did you learn anything in the class?” he asked me. “Did you learn any physics at all?”
“…Yeah. I guess I learned some physics.” I replied.
“Did you get a better idea of what you want to do?”
“I learned that I do not want to be an engineer.”
“Then I would say it’s worth it. It’s worth the time, and the money, and the work you put into the class if you learned something and it helped you figure out what you want to do.”
And just like that, everything was better. That day, Dad taught me valuable lessons about success and what is really important in life. Success isn’t always about succeeding; sometimes it’s about changing paths. And people are always more important than material things. All of the resources I felt were being wasted and Dad was worried about me. As you might have guessed, he was right. Taking the class (and dropping it) was worth it, even if only for the life lessons I learned. I still don’t much understand physics.
My dad is a man of few words who has taught me many things by example. I’ve learned the importance of dedication, loyalty, and work ethic. He has exemplified these traits through 41 years of service to the same employer, as well as 42 years of marriage to my mother. Dad also taught me the importance of attendance and punctuality. I’ve never known him to be late to anything (after all, early is on time, on time is late, and late is not acceptable), and can probably count on one hand the number of times he has called in sick to work in my lifetime.
He also taught me the love of sports and the fun of competition. He was my softball coach and my teacher. I grew to love baseball and football through watching games with him growing up. He’s an Oklahoma native and die-hard OU college football fan, so I naturally had to become an avid Texas Longhorns fan as a young girl—a rivalry we have fun with every year to this day. And I’d be willing to guess I’m not the only one who learned in this relationship…I think I taught him plenty of patience as a young girl, with my endless questions about rules and strategy of the games. We won’t even mention the patience and unconditional love he must’ve learned in my teenage years. But I’m still convinced my younger sister gave him his head full of grey hair.
I was raised by a man with a keen scientific mind, vast kindness, and immense patience. Dad spent his career as a research scientist, having earned a Ph.D. in immunochemistry. So, I grew up frequently visiting my father at his lab and watching him work with baboons and microscopes. He’s retired now, and more interested in growing his huge organic garden and rebuilding vintage vacuum-tube stereo equipment, but if there is ever anything you want to know about the natural world, he still has the answers. I remember him calling me over, when I was very small, to watch a mosquito dining on his arm. He let it sit there as he explained all about how that particular insect lives. Those kinds of experiences happened every day when I was a child, as he taught me to closely observe and appreciate the natural world. I realize now that being raised this way had a huge impact on the person I became and the values that I have. Today, I have two boys of my own, and one of the greatest treasures of my life is watching their Papa teach them the same way he taught me.
Being a depression-era child who had a tough upbringing, my dad wasn’t the most expressive person. But I always knew he loved me and our family. He also had a dry, droll, and sometimes un-PC sense of humor. My senior year of high school, my class went on a retreat where we were presented personal letters from our family, teachers, and friends. Using classic advice from others as well as some of his personal-favorite phrases, my dad conveyed many of his usual “Dadisms,” such as “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” “When you get married always remember that ‘Happy wife means happy life,’” and “When I was your age we didn’t even have a telephone or indoor toilet, so count your blessings.”
There was one bit of advice, however, that he misquoted and which I never understood until the Internet age, when I could easily look it up. It also gave a glimpse into his mischievous wit and served as a source of laughter for us many years later. He had said, “All cats are black after midnight.” I took this as some sort of warning not to stay out too late partying or else it might turn me into a not-so-good character. Well, the actual phrase was, “All cats are grey in the dark,” and is attributed to Benjamin Franklin as advice he gave to young men to take older women to bed because their physical appearance is masked in the dark! I got a great laugh when, many years later, I realized that my dad had mangled the quote, I misunderstood its meaning, and why was he giving his 18-year-old son this advice in the first place! Thinking back on this makes me laugh and miss my dad, who has since passed on, but it also helps keep me grounded and right-thinking as I try to raise our kids with my own Dadisms.
My daddy was old school—a Texas native raised on a farm, and a successful business owner. He, and really all my older relatives, had those Texas-style pithy sayings that just couldn’t be argued with when you commented (whined) about things. As you can imagine, I heard many of these sayings repeatedly growing up, and they’ve stuck with me over the years.
When I was afraid to do something, he would give the fatherly advice of, “Just get out there and get with ‘em.” You can almost hear his southern drawl with that one. And if I ever complained about work being hard, he told me, “That’s why they call it ‘work’, otherwise they’d call it ‘vacation.’”
My personal favorite though, was his no-nonsense response to my complaints about not liking getting up early, or asparagus, or whatever else I felt the need to complain about: “Make yourself like it.” Point being, no matter what you do in life, find a way to enjoy it…even if you have to just make yourself like it.
My dad, Charles Dawson, has been my biggest cheerleader and supporter. He always tells me and my sisters that we could (and can) be and do anything we want in our lives—so explore, take risks, and be happy. As a serial—and most often concurrent—business owner, he tried his hand owning and building businesses in all sorts of industries. Guess that saying about the apple and tree applies to our family, as all sisters and husbands have entrepreneur lives in some form.
His lessons on money are some of the best. Big risks equal big rewards or big losses; but no risk means no opportunity. As a financial advisor, he jokes that he gambles every day and says, while not the goal, if you lose money don’t fret more than five minutes, as you can always make more. But if you lose your integrity, you can’t buy that back with any amount of money. He was (and is) pretty frugal from a material worldview. Again, this rubbed off, as we all keep our cars until end of life and shun credit card debt. Now business loans, lines of credit, and margin accounts are a different story…it takes money to make money.
His work ethic also left a deep impression. In addition to office businesses, he was a dairy farmer and rancher, so he was up before dawn and in bed well after dark daily. In between, he’d head to the office and his other businesses around town. I don’t recall that man staying still for very long. Even today…at 75 years young, he still works on the farm and goes to the office daily.
He also relished (and still does) family time and always made time to play with us, bring us along on his business errands and trips, and participate in whatever activity/lesson/game we had going. While running a business can be all-consuming, I try every now and then to also take the benefit—have a donut morning, volunteer at preschool, and bring my daughter to work with me…because after all, she’ll probably be an entrepreneur as well one day.
Happy Father’s Day!