Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A father's wisdom lasts forever

               Children are perceptive. They know if adults are genuine and truly want to take extra time with them.
              My dad kept up a particular routine all his life. One summer when my daughter was a preschooler, we came to visit. She caught on to the ways of adults rather quickly also, and she picked up on her grandfather’s habit.
               By that time Dad was not able to get around very well. My daughter would go out to the kitchen, get the orange and place it on the dining room table. She would sit there waiting. Dad would laugh because he knew that it was his cue to get up from his lounge chair and get to work peeling away layers of advice.
              The two of them sat and talked. Sometimes you could hear a giggle or laugh from the dining room. I never knew what a grandfather and his granddaughter were talking about. I am sure that it was all good stuff, and I kept out of the way.
               The pleasant aroma of a freshly peeled orange stirs up memories of when I was a little girl, too.
              My dad was a sensible person. He never wavered. At just the right moment he imparted truthful nuggets. Sometimes I wonder how he knew I was struggling without me saying a word. That’s a father for you, though, one that is a teacher for life.                
               Dad returned to the dining room table about two hours after our evening meal was over. He sat by himself. All in all, he was a soft-spoken man, and there was never any fuss about him. The rest of the family knew that we were invited to join him for fruit and a little conversation. If we didn’t, that was fine as well.
               Certain evenings it might be me alone; others nights I was joined by my mother or sister, too. It was a respite after the meal and before bedtime baths without any other distractions. The Yankee game would be on the radio shortly demanding dad’s total attention. It was best to get all other matters attended to first.
               Often I would come with an arithmetic problem, one of many that I could not solve, for expert help. Dad had a lot of patience, and he slowed me down by breaking the problem into steps. The battles over teaching me patience were hard fought on both sides.
                Dad stored his citrus fruit in a wooden crate out in the cool back room off the porch. His supply comes from businessmen on Main Street returning from Florida in the early spring.     
              Dad patted the plastic top liner over the regular cotton tablecloth to make sure that it covered the table and from his pocket out came his knife, which he used to cut each orange into pieces. Quietly he nibbled. It was his nightly ritual.
               Dad told us that eating fruit after a meal, which often included a dessert course, was a holdover from his childhood in Beirut. Middle Eastern cultures serve a last course of fruit to help in the digestive process, and a Mediterranean diet is highly recommended today.
               Often dad’s advice was a hard pill to swallow. My stubborn nature resisted way too many times, even when I realized dad was correct. I went on my merry way doing what I wanted. Sometimes I got it right. Other times, I would hang my head and revisit dad’s wisdom. 
              There are lessons a child needs to figure out for himself.  A good parent loosens the rope as the child grows and learns. There is always the safety net.
               I am amazed at how many parents don’t allow room for risk and failure under their watch. It will happen often in later life, and if little experiences can be managed well, skills for coping will be added in the toolbox for life.
               I hear dad’s favorite phrase, “tomorrow is another day,” ringing in my ears right now. Believe me, it has gotten me through a lot of life’s ups and downs. Often when I think that everything is just dreadful, out pops that phrase. I examine my “sad” state of affairs. I lift my head hopefully.
                There is another bit of wisdom in that saying, too. Pay better attention to today—right now, in fact. I am one that gets caught up in thinking about the weekend, the next vacation and on and on. There are glorious moments all around me that I should not be missing with my head to the ground.
              I was reading a magazine article in Oprah’s “O”. The writer was asking readers to tell what they would do differently if they could re-live earlier years. Letting go and enjoying experiences came neck and neck with listening to advice from others. Like me, that advice is stored away in the brain and becomes useful as needed.
              Life can get messy. Sometimes we are faced with tragedy upon tragedy. Having a little faith in reality is best.
              My good friend tells me that she puts one foot a head of the other while being thrown a curve ball almost out of her reach. Optimism in the midst of her difficulties is pushing her through.
              My dad is speaking to all of us when curly-haired Annie belts out, “the sun will come out tomorrow. Betcha’ bottom dollar.”