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…)
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!