Ten Things My Dad Taught Me
September 11, 2013 | My Jottings
A few months ago I published a post about some of the things I learned from my mom. If you didn’t read it, it’s here. I thought it only right that I write a post about some of the things I learned from my dad.
1. Always snap your wrist to the right when shooting a basketball. My father was a successful and well-known basketball coach in our community, and it seemed like no matter where I went, if someone learned my last name, they always asked if I was related to Doc Sooter. One of the distinctive things his players always talked about was the odd way he taught them to forcefully snap their wrist to the right (if they were right-handed) when taking a jump shot, as soon as the ball rolled off their finger-tips. I have never forgotten this. Most players I see today do snap their wrists in a pronounced way, but I don’t see them snap it out to the right, with fingers splayed and wrist turned. If you’re going to play basketball anytime soon, you might want to take note as well.
2. How to parallel park. Along with coaching, being a high school counselor and a math teacher, my dad taught Drivers Education for years. That was back when the schools offered it to 15 1/2 year-olds in preparation for getting their Driver’s License at age 16. I wasn’t allowed to have my dad for a teacher, but from the time I was about ten years old, he let me drive in parking lots, and he taught me many things I still think of today as I drive. “When you make a turn, you should be sufficiently slowed down enough to accelerate into a turn. Never brake into a turn.” “Always check your side mirrors every few seconds, not just your rear view mirror.” “Never assume anyone else on the road is going to be a good driver. Anticipate the mistakes they could make.” “Parallel parking is a skill worth having, and when it’s done right, you can slip right into a tight spot with one try. None of this in and out, forward and backward, turn this way and that way kind of stuff.” And today, over 40 years after learning how to drive, I can still perfectly parallel park in one try. Is that boasting? I hope it’s not bad to say that. Just last week Michael and I drove to this restaurant to meet my family to celebrate my 56th birthday, and there was one place remaining on the street to park. The space between the two cars was tight. I remembered all the steps my dad drilled into my head about parallel parking, put them into practice, and slipped into the space like a glove in one try. Michael always smiles at me when I do this and says “I’m impressed.” And I always say, “Thanks Dad!”
3. Reading a book a day is a worthwhile pursuit. My dad was an avid reader. When I was little, books were rewards. I hated going to the doctor and getting shots when I was young, and my father would say to me, “We have to take you to Dr. Klink’s office today, and you may have to get a shot. If you’re good and don’t raise a fuss, we’ll stop and buy you a book on the way home!” I still love the idea today of books being a reward. By the time Dad retired, he was going to the Morro Bay, CA library once a week, checking out five or six books, and finishing those books in time to return them all a week later. I cannot imagine my life without books. I would truly be bereft without them.
4. Not saying you’re sorry is a big mistake. Our family was not the most dysfunctional I’ve ever known, but we had some big problems. Some of these problems could have been hugely alleviated if my dad had apologized in a truly humble way. He wasn’t the only one at fault, of course. But I think if I could talk to him now, he would say the same thing. I think it’s so important to say the words “I’m sorry” and truly mean it. I’ve heard many people say, “Well, ‘sorry’ just doesn’t cut it!” and I understand what they’re implying, but I think that a genuine apology heals and helps much more than we think it might.
5. Say peoples’ names. My dad, like my mom, had scores of friends. One of the things I saw him do over and over again was listen carefully as people conversed with him, and to speak their names when he talked to them.
6. Be genuinely interested in people. Ask them questions about themselves. My dad was good at this too. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a one-sided conversation with someone, and when it ended I’ve thought to myself, “Well, they didn’t take lessons from Doc in that area.” (And to be fair, I have probably done the same to my friends since I’m known to be the
long-winded chatty sort.)
7. Enjoy the company of your children. I can’t remember one time in my entire life when my dad shushed me, told me in any way to be quiet, acted like he didn’t want to be around me, or considered me a pest. I didn’t know it so much then, but in looking back now I can see how remarkable that is for a parent. I felt that he valued my company even when I was a little girl. If I walked into a room, his face lit up. If I wanted to go with him someplace he always welcomed that. He listened to me chatter, asked me questions, patiently answered my questions, and spoke to me a few levels above what I was probably capable of fully understanding.
8. Peanut butter is delicious with many things. My dad loved peanut butter. Skippy crunchy peanut butter. He ate it on Wonder white bread, smeared it on saltine crackers, dipped pickles in it, and often just ate a spoonful right out of the jar. I am a huge peanut butter fan as well. I prefer my peanut butter without sugar and hydrogenated oil, but I could eat it every day of my life. I like it with apples, with a slice of swiss cheese, on toast, in cake frostings and on top of ice cream.
9. Going to church can change your life. My father was the son of an itinerant Missouri preacher, and heard the Gospel preached all during his growing up years. By the time I came along in the family he was no longer attending church much, but he wanted to make sure I went. From the time I was about three years old, he drove me to Covina First Baptist Church every Sunday and dropped me off for Sunday School, for many years. I know it would have been more authentic for my dad to go to church with me, but all these years later I’m grateful he did what he did. He meant for me to catch the Gospel message there, and catch it I did. I can’t ever remember a time in my life when I haven’t believed in Jesus, that He died for me and took on my many sins, and loves and helps me every hour of every day. I remember the songs, the verses we memorized, the flannel board stories, the little painted chairs and the baskets full of crayons. I remember my Sunday School teachers, the clothes they wore, can still picture their high heels and beehive hairdos, their smiles, love and dedication. They made me want to know Jesus, and I still want to know Him.
10. Don’t ever say I told you so. My dad was a strong man with black and white opinions he rarely kept to himself. This wasn’t always the funnest thing to live with. But I am grateful that when he was right (at least with me), he didn’t say “I told you so.” For example, my dad didn’t like my first husband much, and in that 20/20 hindsight that comes with wisdom and years, I can now see why. I refused to look at it when I was eighteen years old, and just stubbornly married my handsome boyfriend of three years even though red flags the size of king-sized bed sheets were waving three feet in front of my nose. My dad attended my wedding, embraced Glenn, rejoiced when two beautiful granddaughters were born, and cried with me when the marriage suddenly ended in Germany four years later. My husband had been just who my dad suspected he was, but Dad never said, “I knew this would happen. I told you so!” I was very thankful for his restraint.
I learned other things from my father too, but these are the ten I thought of today. How about you? What are some things your father taught you?