(EDITOR'S NOTE: This was written last September in preparation for my father's funeral. In the grand scheme of life, I can only hope that I am able to pass along important lessons in life to my children, and grandchildren).
There are many lessons in life that we learn from our fathers. They begin when we are children and continue as long as we live. I'd like to share a few of the lessons that come to my mind today as we celebrate Dad's passing, from here to eternity.
One of the earliest lessons I recall is that there are boundaries in life. For me, it started with a crib that I can remember climbing out of at a young age as I sought my personal freedom. Not long afterward it was a fence in our backyard when we lived in Stannards that was put up to contain me, but couldn't stop me as I again put my climbing skills to use. I was disciplined, and I proved over and over throughout the years following that I was a slow learner. But at some point, it dawned on me that the limits being imposed weren't so much to keep me from having fun but rather to protect me from harm. What father doesn't want to protect his child?
Another early lesson was that Sunday's were meant for church, which is where we were every Sunday - unless we were at my grandparents' in Gowanda; then we had a weekend off. It didn't impress me much as a youngster, perhaps, but when I started raising my own children years later I knew it was the right thing to do and the right place to be.
Along with that, over the years, were the countless times I would wake up in the morning to find Dad sitting at the kitchen table reading his Bible and quietly meditating. I now begin every day the same way.
They were major life lessons. But there were simple things, too, like Dad teaching me how to throw and catch a baseball, how to hunt, how to drive a car and how to pick out the right apartment when I was off to college.
I didn't always listen, but Dad never gave me bad advice on anything.
Realistically, Dad in no way was perfect. He had his quirks, some of which I don't understand to this day. But through those imperfections I have been able, with the help of God, to learn and not repeat in my life.
During a visit with Dad a couple of weeks ago I thanked him for teaching me all that he had throughout his life, and I added that even now I was continuing to learn from him. One of his last pieces of advice to me was "take care of your teeth and keep them as long as you can." We laughed.
There is much joy in this life, and also much pain. I'm thankful that in so many ways Dad paved the way for me and was there to teach and help me along the way.
Dad, I'm still listening. I'm still learning.
Thank you, Dad.