“You Can’t Push a Rope” (and other ridiculous insight from my Dad)

Today, my Dad would have been 56 years old.  After thinking about this blog for the last two months, I am almost afraid to write it tonight, because I worry that I won’t capture everything that I would want to say about him.  With that being said… I think most people who knew my Dad really well, and know me really well, would agree that I am a direct extension of him in so many ways, good and bad (depending on your definition of bad…)

  1. “You can’t push a rope.” I can imagine your wheels are spinning right now trying to find a way to disprove this theory.  I know I have spent a lot of time (maybe too much) trying to decide if this quote is viable or hogwash.  At age 28 (after about 15 years of thinking about this phrase), I am here to say that there are many ways you can push a rope!  You could spray it with something to stiffen it, then it would be easy to push.  You could put it on something hard and push it, but that might be cheating.  You could push it until it bunches up (no one said how far you have to push it).  I think, though, that what he was saying is that a rope is like dead weight and without altering it, you can only push so far before you’re pulling it…  I’ve found the wisdom now, after becoming a teacher (a job my Dad didn’t think I would be good at or enjoy) that people at any age have to be willing participants in any change that you want to make.  If they’re not, you’re not going to get very far and you’re going to be frustrated.
  2. Just dance! My Dad was a great dancer.  I don’t know that he was technically great, but what he lacked in technique, he made up for in passion.  He felt the music, he loved the spotlight, and he made dance fun!  I now teach a whole unit on the history of social dance to my new 6th graders because I learned how powerful social dancing is to people.  When I was maybe 6, my dad took me on a “date” to see the Nutcracker.  I danced with my Dad at every family wedding as far back as my memory goes (which is a loooong way).  My dad came to school in 3rd grade to demonstrate South Carolina’s state dance, the Shag, to my classmates.  When I turned 21 I did the Hustle with my dad in our living room.  When I got engaged and moved home for the four months before the wedding, my Dad asked me to take Waltz lessons with him for our father-daughter dance.  Many of my best milestones in life are marked by dance and my dad!  Which I have believe is why I love to dance so much and why I choose to share that passion every day.
  3. I’d rather be speaking in public than most anything. My dad was a great speaker.  My brothers are amazing orators.  And I have been a successful public speaker my entire life.  When I talked with my brothers (26 and 22) we all agreed that this was a skill we inherited from him, and that he helped nurture.  He always pointed out that we were easy to hear and understand (in contrast to our friends who mumbled and didn’t have a clue how to use a mic).  Everyone loves to get praise from a parent, but it means even more when they recognize something in you that you admire about them!  I encourage this skill in students when I emphasize the importance of being able to express yourself clearly so that others will take you seriously and listen.
  4. Relationships are key. My dad truly cared about all of his friends and family.  He made a point to see them in person when possible, and to pick up the phone when you couldn’t see them in person.  I treasure the special visits he made to see me when I was in Auburn.  We would go grocery shopping, go out to eat, and anything else I wanted to do.  The ironic part about this statement is that my Dad and I could fight like you wouldn’t believe!  I don’t mean just disagree, but actual screaming (maybe a curse…or two) often to the point of tears.  I don’t regret those fights at all.  Actually, I think in a sick way, we learned about each other through those fights, and loved one another for being so honest and passionate.  I don’t think my Mom enjoyed it so much…  Now I am able to stand up for what I believe in, and I respect others who do as well.
  5. What’s your plan? I hated that question!  I now realize that I pretty much live by that question.  It’s a strange thing to realize that you actually learned something from the things you hated about your parents as a teenager.  I have found that question is powerful when someone is stuck in negative thoughts.  It helps people begin to think about the future and what actions they need to take.  Humph!  Ok, I’ll give him that one.
  6. Here are a few other things that my Dad did well, that I also enjoy: naps, cleaning a kitchen (deep cleaning), helping a worthy cause, glass of wine, talking, movies, holidays, cooking, talking, caring for dogs, parenting, talking, eating sushi, being on time, and talking.

My Dad was a very unique man who told the truth and had his own way of leading.  He wasn’t afraid to say what he thought, but he was also very thoughtful when someone needed him.  He had a difficult childhood, but he was a success story that I aspire to daily.  He taught me to love people and animals.  He taught me to be outgoing and welcome new people.  He taught me to be independent, strong, and never accept defeat.  He showed me how to work hard and play hard.  Most of all, he taught me to love my Mom and family and to say it and show it as much as possible.  Even if they don’t mean it that way, I always take it as a compliment when people say to me, “Alright, Cliff…”

This sushi’s for you!

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14 Responses to “You Can’t Push a Rope” (and other ridiculous insight from my Dad)

  1. nada werner says:

    Sweetie- I love this post for so many reasons! You are an amazing adult & though I didn’t know your dad, I know he’d be so proud of you! : )

    • dancecookie says:

      Thanks Nada! I love having you in my life! I feel like we were meant to find each other… You have impacted me in so many ways over the last few years and helped me survive and thrive in my first years of teaching and motherhood! I love you!

  2. Hugh Hamilton says:

    Amanda, Great blog tribute to your dad! You capture much of Cliff’s character in your recounting of his ways, his likes and dislikes. I appreciated his love of all things cooking, of all things seafood, of all things family. GrandDaddy and I teased him through the years that he bought automobiles as a sound system acompanied by wheels and a motor! In Montreat one year he took me out on the interstate to demo the killer sound system in his new vehicle: “Lsiten to that bass! Listen to those clear high notes! Here come the tympani, you can FEEL the music!”

    As to “push a rope” — it is a quote often attributed to President Eisenhower, stressing the need for servant leadership and leadership by example that people will follow because they know you care about them, because they trust you and your vision. When working with volunteers, often your only power is that of persuasion and example. Hence, it is far more effective to pull a rope than to push one.

    Again, a great post. Thank you for sharing your memories and reflections!

    Uncle Hugh

    • dancecookie says:

      Thank you, Uncle Hugh! And thank you for the background on that quote… I guess I was thinking along the right lines:) I love that I have a such a supportive and funny family on both sides and thank God that my parents found each other. I never knew what an impact this one post would have (with over 150 hits in 24 hours!) Whenever I write something personal, I worry that people won’t understand or won’t identify, but it is reassuring to know that his influence and memory have spread so far and been so long-lasting. Hope to see you and your family soon!

  3. Elizabeth Woodard says:

    Oh my! You’ve hit this nail on the head my sweet girl and Daddy would be so proud! Cliff was a great at all these things you remember and in long, passionate diatribes of his where you may have wanted to break in for your opinion, don’t you remember his famous line: “Am I right?”????? Didn’t you want to answer: “No dammit!” just to get him going again? Thank goodness you, Ryan, and Blake were listening. I’m proud of you all and especially of your tribute to Cliff. He was a wonderful Daddy to you. I’ll be forever grateful for his and your Mom’s friendship. OOOOOXXXXX E.

    • dancecookie says:

      Thank you! We are all so grateful to have you in our lives and I think it is fitting that you got to witness the real Parsons family all of those years. XOXOXO

  4. Miller McCormick says:

    Amanda-
    Your Mom and I grew up together in Spartanburg and I did know your Dad but not very well. I don’t usually read blogs but I am glad I read yours. This was a beautiful testimony to the wonderful legacy of Cliff that is still alive in you. You have been blessed with a beautiful family and what a great tribute to write so eloquently about it. Best wishes to you-Miller M.

    • dancecookie says:

      Wow! This comment absolutely made my day for so many reasons! I appreciate your reading and commenting. It is awesome to find the common power of memories and humor:)

  5. Nichelle says:

    A lovely tribute, Amanda. So many wonderful lessons learned – it seems almost crystal clear that you would become a teacher!

  6. Marcum Core says:

    Great blog Amanda!

    • dancecookie says:

      Marcum, thank you for reading!!! I am so amazed by how many people have responded to this simple post! I hope to see you soon, at the reunion! I can’t believe its been 10 years…!

  7. Terri says:

    You can’t push a rope….I googled the phrase since its something my husband says quite frequently as we wonder “why” when we are discussing our sons and this blog came up. Your dad sounds very much like my husband. Your dad is so blessed to have children who appreciate and honor his values. Thank you for sharing this!

  8. Simon says:

    Hi, I don’t know you or your dad but from your blog post I have learned so much and I envy you for having had such a great dad. landed here after googling “You Can’t Push a Rope”. Thank you for sharing this and wishing you all the best in your teaching career. <== Simon From Kenya

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