“Cream Rises To The Top”

Terry, Me and Dad

Today is Father’s Day in the US. Unfortunately, I’m not able to spend the day with my dad because he’s living in Bangkok, at the moment.

This year’s Father’s Day is especially important because it happens to be the first Father’s Day that my brother also gets to celebrate being a dad. As anybody who keeps up with this blog knows, he just recently had a little baby boy.

Because the labor and process of birthing was so intense, they have been staying at the hospital this past week while Mama C recovers. Thankfully, they get to bring the whole family home today. I can’t think of a better gift for a new father than bringing his baby home on this special day!

Although my relationship with Dad has been tumultuous, there are quite a few lessons I have learned from him. I hope these same lessons and traits find their way through my brother’s own style of parenting.

I get my sense of goofy and inane from my dad. He can be one of the silliest people I know, as I’ve shared in my story of Nee-nah and Magnet Butt. Another game we used to play was “Yahoo, sausage!” On Sunday mornings, when we would all sit down to breakfast, anybody who served themselves a piece of sausage had to yell, “Yahoo, sausage!” Such a funny, random thing to do, but to this day, we all proclaim, “Yahoo, sausage!” whenever we have sausage for breakfast.

My dad is a whiz with puns and analogies. I definitely get my sense of humor and appreciation for puns from him. He had the ability to keep a pun running for 15- 20 iterations, easily. He especially shined if you got him going on baseball or cow puns. Although, I’m pretty good at them now, I still can’t keep up with his creativity and word associations.

He’s also taught me less tangible things like how to question the system and never be too reverent to those in power. For example, when I was applying to attend a semi-private high school, there was a section my parents had to fill out that asked, “Do you feel your child would be a good addition to our school?” and Dad replied, “Does a bear poop in the woods?”

He just thought it was a stupid question considering we were in the process of applying, and figured he’d answer a stupid question with a stupid answer. At the time, I was mortified and frightened that it would affect my chances of getting in, but it didn’t. Instead, it gave them all a good laugh.

Although he was very strict, and had some not so great ways of enforcing rules, one of the things I give him credit for is that he was present. He took an active role in our education and teaching us what he thought was important and didn’t just assume the school would provide us with what we needed to know.

I’ve mentioned our nightly news ritual, but I also have memories of him sitting down in the living room with a globe and explaining weather patterns to us; what high and low pressure meant and where wind came from.

I remember gathering around the table and him talking to us about how to break down a word and ascertain the meaning by their prefix, base and suffix. He introduced us to common Latin base words. That’s when I really started to get an understanding of how language works and could begin to see the similarities between English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not literate in any of them, but I have noticed that it comes in handy while traveling. Even if I don’t know the language, I can get the gist of signs and make my way around in foreign countries, be it Peru or Switzerland.

Dad’s the person who showed me how a toilet works, how to check my oil and tire pressure, and how to change the tire, if necessary. He’s also the guy who showed me how to use jumper cables and a jack. He thought it was important that I know these things regardless of the fact that I was a girl.

Every time we came home, he would ask us, “What’d you learn today?” It set the expectation that we were required to engage in our learning, not just regurgitate facts and wait to be spoon fed. This also led to summer projects being assigned like writing a 10 page report on a subject of his choosing, researching our travel destinations and learning how to type by copying whole articles from the National Geographic.

I’m not saying that I LIKED learning all these lessons, but as I get older, I find myself appreciating them more and more.

The two main phrases that I remember my dad saying are, “Competence breeds confidence,” and “Cream rises to the top.” I think his biggest goal has always been to try and make sure we would be independent, self-sustainable and competent for whatever life threw at us.

I’m not sure I can say the ends justified the means for some of the choices he made. There are definitely methods my dad incorporated that I think did more harm than good, and it took me a long time to forgive him for some things.

However, I know he did the best he could at the time, and I believe he had the best intentions towards the three of us kids. I hope that my brother remembers the positive lessons and finds a way to pass some of them on to his own family.

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