I was one of those fortunate people. We didn’t have much money. The war had just ended and times were tough but I remember pillow fights and piggybacks, discovery walks in nature, a handmade doll’s house and a dad who was always there for me.
He would have just turned 107. I miss him as much today as I did 24 years ago when he left us. He was an exceptional man, a deep thinker and someone whose love was both strong and tender. He could turn his hand to anything and I've been pondering on some of the things he taught me which have significantly shaped my life.
1. Don’t put it down, put it away
This was a rule in my childhood home and one I adopted when my children were growing up. It means there’s never a clutter to clean up later. How tempting to put something down intending to come back to put it away “when I get time” but one thing builds on another and before you know it there’s a big mess to put away. I still catch myself saying it sometimes if I'm tempted to put something down instead of away.
2. If its worth doing its worth doing well
No half measures with my father, he believed in giving 100% to everything he did. He taught me to prioritise, to do what is important or valuable and then do it with all my heart.
3. To live without limitations - to explore possibilities
My dad taught self-belief. That I could achieve anything I wanted to do if I was prepared to put in the hard work and not give up. It may require learning along the way and maybe finding help, but with perseverance I could accomplish anything. I’ve proved this to be true so many times in my life … done things I could never have thought possible.
The dictionary tells me there is no such word but I was taught it meant never give up until the job is completed … finish what you started. There’s a great satisfaction in finishing one thing completely before starting something else and you aren’t left with numerous half finished jobs, which often lead to frustration because you don’t feel like you are achieving anything.
5. Give without expecting a reward
Give freely and generously without wanting anything in return. Whether the gift is money, time or experience, giving should always be unconditional or it isn’t truly a gift.
My father had a favourite quote, "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to a fellow human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again". Generally attributed to Etienne de Grellet, a Quaker missionary.
I was taught to show respect to anyone who came across my path, to treat him or her with dignity and kindness irrespective of who they were or what they did. Dad taught me respect and care for nature, for tools, for all belongings, mine and those of others. It was not a throw-away-and-get-another-one era. My father had lived through the depression and the war years when you didn't throw out a shirt because the collar frayed, you turned the collar, you didn't throw out socks when they got a hole in the toe, you darned them and when the sole of your shoe wore out you resoled them.
7. To think for myself
Dad challenged me to think for myself ... rationally and logically ... to reason and consider carefully what I was being told and not to accept things at face value. To consider consequences. He encouraged me to read widely and be curious and interested in the world around me. As I got older we would debate late into the night, about politics, science, the wonders of the universe and the mysteries of God. He instilled in me a hunger and thirst for knowledge while warning me that knowledge without the wisdom to apply it can be dangerous.
8. About relating to children
My dad knew the importance of getting down to a child’s level to relate well to them. Even though he had a serious heart condition, a chronic spinal problem and debilitating arthritis, he always found a way to get down on the floor and play with my children and they loved him for it. It’s been a lesson I learnt by example and now enjoy with my grandchildren.
9. Preparation is key
The end result always depends on preparation. A good paint job is only achieved if the surface is well prepared beforehand. A garden only thrives when the soil is properly prepared before planting. A good presentation requires good preparation. Preparation is key to most things ... no short cuts.
10. Work hard
My father didn’t tolerate laziness but he had a way of making work interesting and often fun. I think the secret was that he got us working with him and he taught us valuable lessons along the way. So much of what I’ve been able to do throughout life I learnt from him as a child. He included me in everything from painting, gardening, polishing the car, cleaning the shoes (done every Saturday morning) resoling shoes (I hated the smell of the glue) , cleaning and polishing the car and mending things around the house.
I remember when I was seven he painted my bedroom and let me choose the colours. I worked alongside him, stirring the paint, learning to store paint tins upside down, and how to clean a brush until it was as soft as a feather and put away carefully for next time. He taught me to be as diligent with the menial tasks as with the important ones, and that nothing is beneath me.
There must have been times when it would have been quicker and easier to have done things himself but he had a higher goal. I learnt as much from his life as I ever learnt from his words.
My father began teaching my son woodwork when he was 3 years old. My son went on to become a woodwork teacher and invested in other children's lives as his grandfather had done for him.
Dad, you will be forever missed. I will always be grateful for your love, Your encouragement, your wisdom and for the imprint you left on my life.
Banner photo: When my father became too ill to work outside or in his workshop, he read everything he could about Kookaburras and began to study and feed the local Kookaburras as they came to his deck each day. They became firm friends. It was a wonderful distraction from the endless pain he lived with and proof to me he never gave up being involved in life.