Lessons from my father

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
-- From "If" by Rudyard Kipling
As the last hours of Father's Day roll by, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on what it means to be a father, especially in today's world, where fathers are taken for granted and their rights are stripped from them at gunpoint.

I am fortunate- extraordinarily so, in fact- to be very close to my father. He is my hero and my role model. Like every young buck blessed enough to have a good father, I wanted nothing more as a kid than to be like my dad. To me, his work was a source of mystery, wonder, and inspiration; it wasn't until I was much older that I realised just how hard he worked to keep my mother, my sister, and me so comfortable and happy.

My father has always taught me by example, by quiet word and clear deed. While he is not a humble man- far from it, in fact, as he is quite well aware of his own gifts and strengths- he is also not an insecure one. He has no interest in showing off his incredibly broad and deep body of knowledge that spans subjects ranging from physics to economics to politics to business to current affairs. He has no need to proclaim to others how successful he is, who he knows, how many cars he drives, or how well he lives.

He doesn't actually care all that much for "stuff"; his overriding motivation in life, his only real concern from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep (ridiculously late in both cases, from my point of view), is the welfare of his wife and his children.

I don't have children (obviously). I am at the point in my life where I think that raising children- especially raising sons- is not just something that would be "fun" to do; I think it is a duty, an absolute necessity in a world that has plainly gone mad. Raising strong sons into good, God-fearing, honest, hard-working men is far more than merely a useful endeavour; it absolutely must be done if we are to restore the Will and the Word of the Lord as our guiding principles in life.

Make no mistake: raising sons into true men is the greatest challenge that a man will ever face. Last year, I wrote about the things that I would teach my son if- God willing- I were ever given the opportunity. But where did I get those ideas from? Quite simply, I learned them from my own father. The man that I am today is a direct result of a strong, firm, loving father's guidance and wisdom; it is out of gratitude to and respect for him that I now put forth some of what he taught me.

1. In Matters of Principle, Be Immovable and Unstoppable

My father is flexible in many respects when it comes to his children. He will put up with all sorts of silliness from both me and my sister with patience, good humour, and that amused little sardonic smile of his that tells me that he is secretly enjoying himself while watching us bicker and squabble good-naturedly.

But if one of us is ever stupid enough to cross the lines he has laid down, only the Lord Himself can save us from his wrath.

My father doesn't really have a "belief system", per se. He is probably the least religious person I've ever met that doesn't call himself an atheist. But he has always lived his life by a code- and that code is simple:

Honour your father and mother;
Love your wife and children;
Never lie, cheat, steal, or be dishonest in any way;
Respect the views of others- and, in turn, demand that they respect yours;
Be grateful for and humble about what life has given you;
Be happy with what you have;
Never demean or disrespect those who work for you;
Work hard, do not complain, but demand fair compensation for your efforts

Anyone who crosses these clear, unbending lines of moral principle and purpose rarely lasts long under the withering blast of my father's scorn and rage. He doesn't get angry often, but when he does, I have seen hurricanes that looked less terrifying than he does.

2. Family First, Always

Growing up, I always took it for granted that my dad was "away". He was travelling virtually non-stop when I was a child. But, wherever he was, no matter how late it was for him when he got off a flight or got into a hotel, the very first thing he did was call us at home. And his children always got the lion's share of his time.

My mother, to whom he has been quite happily and contentedly married for 36 years and counting, would get in maybe three sentences before he would say, "are the kids around?". And she would then hand the phone over to me. And I would babble away for five or ten minutes about whatever silly inconsequential nonsense was on my mind at the time.

My sister, when she came along, was even worse than I was. Being a girl, she of course had my dad wrapped around her little finger from Day 1- still does, of course. And she would talk on, and on, and on, as girls do, about who said what and who she played with and what her teachers said, etc. etc.

My father would patiently listen, laugh, offer advice where it seemed necessary, and then hang up the phone after maybe a few more words with my mother. And then, the next day, just before dinner time, he would call again, with almost military precision. And so it would continue, until he got home to spend a few precious days with us before jetting off to his next set of meetings.

When he came home, the weekends were sacrosanct. He would flatly refuse to play the corporate game and go out for weekend golf or pub outings with colleagues. He would simply spend the time at home with us, take us out to lunch and dinner, and spend as much time as he could with his family before getting ready to do it all again starting Monday- or, sometimes, Sunday night.

That lesson has always stuck with me. To this day, I find it next to impossible to go on holiday by myself- I hate travelling, or at least flying, and whenever we get together as a family, things always feel incomplete if my sister or I aren't there.

My father taught me that nothing in this world is more important than family. Nothing makes up for missing the growth and development of your children, no matter how fancy the lifestyle and how impressive the house and the education that your kids get and so on. Your children are your legacy to the world; it is imperative that you do everything you can to raise them right.

Sons need strong, decent, firm fathers to teach us how to become men. Daughters need stern, loving, protective fathers to teach them right from wrong, to preserve their chastity and virtue for men that actually deserve it and will then protect them, and to be good wives and mothers.

These are lessons that our sick and crippled society has forgotten. But my father drove it into me through nothing more than the force of his example.

3. Debt is Slavery

My father has an absolutely unholy hatred of debt.

When my parents got married, my father wanted to buy his own apartment or house, something that my parents could call their own. But they were too poor back then to afford anything without a loan.

My father simply would not countenance the idea of taking a loan. He knew what most people today still do not: the moment you go into debt, to anyone, he owns you as surely as though you were his slave, until the day you pay him back with interest.

My dad refused to accept that yoke. And my mother, Lord bless her, completely supported him in this decision.

To build their first house- as a second story on top of my father's parents' house- they sold off my mother's jewelry and some small plots of land that she had inherited from various relatives who had died. They scraped together whatever money they had, and with it, they purchased their first house.

It wasn't much. But it was THEIRS. No one could take it away from them, by any right known to or accepted by Man or God.

My father has passed that hatred of debt on to me. I don't own much, but what I do, I have bought and paid for. I use "lay-away" plans all the time- in that I take a few months, or years, or whatever, to lay away the money that I need to buy what I want, and then I buy it. I pay off my credit cards in full, on time, every time.

I will NEVER let any man own me. I will NEVER kneel in chains before anyone, no matter how rich, how powerful.

My father is the reason that I think this way. It is because of his wisdom, his strength, and his example that I learned the inestimably precious value of living within one's means from an early age.

4. Respect Your Body

Unfortunately, one lesson that my father taught me, again through example, has been one that he himself has often failed to heed during his life.

My dad these days is fairly fat. As a young man, he was quite thin and very good-looking; but decades of a sedentary and workaholic lifestyle have left him a rotund, unfit man.

He is a lifelong smoker, too. It is in reaction to his smoking that I have developed an absolute hatred of the stench of cigarette smoke. (Strangely, I actually don't mind the smoke from a good cigar all that much- and I don't mind the smell of pipe tobacco at all.)

Furthermore, he followed the "conventional" medical advice all his life with respect to diet, eating lots of rice and bread, avoiding "unhealthy" fats like butter and coconut oil and bacon fat. And he, like most of my countrymen, has a massive sweet tooth; he loves chocolate and ice cream and various desserts.

Over the last ten years of my life, I have taken those negative lessons to heart and charted a course very nearly the opposite of my father's, at least in these respects. I exercise regularly- pretty damned hard, in fact. I eat lots of meat and vegetables. I cut out most processed foods from my diet years ago, and never looked back. I stick to fruits and dark chocolate and red wine as the sources of my sugars.

I am a resolute non-smoker; I've never taken so much as a single puff of a cigarette in my life, and I damned well don't intend to start now.

My father taught me, through all the wrong lessons, just how dangerous it can be to neglect your body. If, however, you respect your body, and you work hard to make it strong and resilient, your body will repay you an hundredfold.

The Hardest Job There Is

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: being a good father is the hardest job a man can ever have. It is also the most important. Wives need strong husbands to be their leaders, their protectors, their rock and their fortress in the storms that life inevitably throws at us. And children need strong, virtuous, loving, firm fathers to raise them through force of will and leadership by example.

A strong and healthy society does not happen by accident. It is the result of generations of good and capable fathers raising strong, hard-working, fundamentally decent sons and daughters. This is incredibly difficult work; the lines on my father's face, and the completely white hair on his head, are testament to what he went through raising me and my sister.

But there is no greater reward than to watch your children grow up to become admirable and decent young men and women. And there is no greater fulfillment of God's Will for His creation than to watch those same children sire children of their own, that their grandparents can then spoil rotten, as they should and must.

My father is my hero, the man that I try to emulate, whether consciously or otherwise, in as many ways as I can. And I will always be grateful to him, for as long as he lives and far longer still, for everything that he did for me and taught me.

He made me who I am. And for that, I am grateful beyond words.

Comments

  1. I've had similar thoughts. However, it would seem that, the youth of my age group have to think similar thoughts to rationalise being brought up by the television.

    ReplyDelete
  2. a message I like to share someplace every father's day: (admittedly late this year)

    “Violence never solved anything” my mother would say.
    “Fighting hurts you more than the people that pick on you” said the school assistant principal, Mrs. Greally, as i sat in her office waiting for detention that I had not earned.
    “if you ignore them they will get bored and go away.” said the school nurse as she put disinfectant on my eye, and my busted lip.
    “Never forget you are better than they are.” said the bus driver as she pulled away the curb to leave me to the attentions of three bullies.
    “You are bigger than they are, and fighting back would make you a bully.” said my neighbor Mrs. Clarke.

    “What the fuck is wrong with you? you are like three times the size of those little bastards! Hurt one of them so bad everyone is too scared to fuck with you ever again!”

    Thank you Mister Brock. Junior high school phys ed teacher. Your ways were rough, but you were the only one that ever understood or truly cared. You were the closest thing I ever found to a father.

    And to my blood father, whom I only met once- I understand. I forgive you. I never truly understood until it happened to me.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. Anonymous comments will be deleted.

Popular Posts