Wisdom of father figures

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

“If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”

“You can drag your feet, but the work’s still going to be there when you get around to it.”

I’m guessing each of you has similar phrases knocking around in your own heads. Maybe they sound like the timbers of your dads’ voices, or those of your grandpas, uncles or other similar father figures.

Isn’t it interesting what sticks with us as we age? I’m sure no father figure sets out to actively spout wise one-liners that will be etched into our cerebellums like words into granite. And yet, the lessons are there, all these years later.

Words and deeds make an impression in young minds that stick with us, don’t they?

For example, I remember I was a very shy young girl with strangers. But my dad worked with me to overcome my nerves, telling me, “You can’t make a friend until they know your name. And they won’t ever know your name until you stick out your hand and look them in the eye and introduce yourself.” I still struggle at times, even now as an adult. But his voice is there, nudging me along.

Dad’s advice for dealing with bullies was also eerily similar to dealing with herd bulls, “Stand your ground, wave your arms and be firm.” I doubt he said that with a conscious thought that would also serve me as an adult volunteer board member and a professional communicator, but it has done just that.

My senior year in high school I had a long term health scare that the doctors couldn’t figure out for quite a long time. For several months, I was in and out of the E.R., poked and prodded, and it was a very scary time for my parents. But Dad never let on that he was worried, just telling me, “You know, tough times don’t last. But tough people do.” Even still today I draw on those words in trying times.

But there are other voices beside my dad, with other bits of wisdom that come to me when I need them.

Like that of my grandpa, who would tell me, “There is always time to laugh.” This was usually after he defused and teased a laugh out of my famously serious grandma.

There’s also Grandpa’s wisdom regarding ice cream as a reward for any particularly dreaded chore, whether that was mowing the lawn or taking out the trash after the catfish fry up the night before. To tell you the truth, now that I look back on it, there wasn’t really an occasion that didn’t call for ice cream in that man’s view. It was the cure for hangnails, heartaches and days of the week that ended with “-y.”

 The voices of father figures not related to me by blood are in there too. There’s the pastor who baptized me in our little country church saying, “God said to love everyone as we love ourselves. He didn’t say it would be easy.” My science teacher in high school telling me, “You only fail when you stop trying.” And my first editor, telling me, “Mistakes happen. If you don’t learn from them then that’s an even greater mistake.”

None of these men, I imagine, thought that their words would stay with me all these years. But they’ve brought me comfort, instilled bravery in me, and given me gumption when I needed it the most.

This Father’s Day, take a moment and reflect on the voices that you hear when you need their wisdom the most. Whether they’re blood relatives or not, the father figures in our lives have helped shape us. And if those voices are still around, tell them thank you.

Because, as Dad would say, “Tell people what they mean to you today, because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.”

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].

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