Cancer took him from us five years ago, his quietness a permanent habit. (You don’t say much when you rarely have energy to speak.) I think of him every June around Father’s Day, when others are planning special presents or goodies for their dads. That may no longer be possible, but it doesn’t stop me from treasuring the gifts he left.
Learning From Dad: Life Lessons From My Father
Do The Best You Can With What You Have
Dad barely graduated from eighth grade…but no one could better diagnose or repair a tractor. (To this day, my mom still gets phone calls from hopeful farmers looking for Dad’s advice.) He made less than $25,000 annually for many years — and it took nearly two decades for them to pay off the farm. (Priced at an ‘astronomical’ $10,000.) Yet the folks paid their bills, contributed to the church, and helped support several missionaries. By Dad’s death, in spite of medical costs, they didn’t owe a penny. A healthy nest egg even remained to help support Mom.
Raise Or Forage What You Eat
A large garden fed us year-round, thanks to Mom’s canning. She also made the pies, bread, cakes and cookies we ate. A steer or pig was butchered each fall to keep us in meat. (I thought everyone was able to have roast beef, steak and pork chops whenever they wanted. We did!) Bluegills, perch and bass were a staple, fished from the lake down the road; our cousins regularly brought dozens of pounds of salmon and smelt, caught in Lake Michigan. (Everybody got those too, didn’t they?) About the only thing we purchased was coffee, a few goodies — and a weekly ice cream cone after our stop at the library.
Never Pay Full Price
Partly, this became a habit because the folks literally did not have the money to spend. (Remember the ‘expensive’ farm? Mom told me years later that the mortgage payment took 25% of their monthly pay.) They learned to buy secondhand and keep things in good repair, from a freezer to the Ambassador they drove for a dozen years. Dad was also a master at haggling. He regularly bought things at rock-bottom prices, simply because he was patient. (“Wait for them to speak first,” he cautioned. “Then always offer less.”)
Education, Education, Education
Maybe it was Dad’s lack of formal education, or his voracious love for reading. He insisted that both his children go to college; both graduated, and one went on for a Master’s degree. (The grandchildren followed suit.) Dad (and Mom) expected us to work, during high school and college. They figured we’d earn scholarships and grants. (Did that, too.) They also paid, sacrificing when they had to; my little brother remembers a load of hay sold when tuition came due.
A Good Name And Reputation Are Priceless
Big bucks are fun, but they don’t last. An honest name, though, is something that will open doors, not only for you, but for generations to come. Do you want people to mention you with respect? You’ll have to earn it, a day at a time.
Thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day, with love.