Here are some of the things my father said to me, things I still hear today:
- “It’s a good thing you are tough.” Whenever we’d complaint to Dad about an ache, pain, or malady, he’d respond cheerfully, “It’s a good thing you are tough.” Empathetic he was not. Expectant he was. The dictionary defines tough as the ability to endure pain or hardship. He expected us to be tough and, under the influence of his expectations, we became tough.
- “Go play with a rattlesnake,” Dad told us He also called me “Stinky Poo” and Wright “Wart”. It was tease AND be teased in our home. We’d tease Dad and he’d tease us back. Outsiders listening were appalled but we knew he was really telling us he loved us.
- “It’s good to get up in the morning. It’s good to get up in the morning. It’s good to get up in the morning. It’s better than staying in bed.” Dad exuberantly sang this song anytime anyone was in bed past what he considered time to get up. On Sunday mornings he’d get us up at 6 a.m. even though Church did not start until 10 a.m. Today I got up at 4:30 a.m even though Church does not start until 10:30 a.m.
- “Turn off the water.” We had a cistern at the Walker place in Bend, OR and water came through the ditch to fill it only once a month. If we drained the cistern before the month was up, it was tough luck. (See first bullet.) Once (it only took once), he came into the bathroom and turned off the shower while I was showering. To this day the sight of water being unnecessarily run down the drain drives me crazy.
- “Show her who is boss!” Dad instructed me when my horse misbehaved. He was telling me to keep working with the mare until we accomplished the task assigned us and he was teaching me that excuses are not acceptable. Circumstances, be they person, place or thing, are not to be blamed for unsatisfactory outcomes. And satisfactory outcomes are achievable with effort and endurance. I learned that I am both responsible and capable.
- “Who knows better, you or me?” Dad asked us. No matter how we responded, his answer was “Then quit arguing.” The sheer ridiculousness of the verbal exchange silenced me as a child. Now it silences my children.
- “So?” Dad would respond when I used other’s opinions or actions to justify my decisions. “So what?” His unmistakable message was that I was to base my decisions on my values. Period.
- “MYOB,” Dad frequently said in response to our questions when he was bishop (religious leader) of our ward (congregation). MYOB stands for “Mind your own business” and it meant that he would not answer our questions because to do so would violate a sacred trust. I, too, can keep a secret.
- “Teresa worked so hard today,” Dad would tell Mom at the dinner table after we’d spent time together on a project. I loved working with Dad because I loved hearing him tell Mom what a good worker I was. Pleased with his praise, I learned to love working. I also learned that working with and praising children is an effective way to teach a good work ethic. I still love working. And I still love praise.
I suspect Dad loves praise too so I will take this opportunity to shout (or at least write and publish) his praises.
Thank you Dad for the lessons you taught. Thanks for being the kind of dad who loves us and always leads us towards God. Growing up I knew that whatever God asked us to do would be done in our home. And I had no problem accepting that I had a Father in Heaven who loves and treasures me because I grew up with a Father on Earth who modeled that.
I love you Dad!!