“Drink a glass of water and go walk around the block.” These words were my father’s solution to just about any childhood ailment. Water replaced medicine. Walking replaced surgery.
If I had a stomach ache, then drink a glass of water. When my sister had a headache, water was the remedy.
Flu, diarrhea, fever, poison ivy — water.
A twisted ankle or banged-up knee? No bandaids. Take a quick walk, and it will feel better.
He was a former All-American football player with teammates named Bubba, Ace, Inky, Billy Bob, RD, and Pinky.
He was a “get up and shake it off’ kind of guy.”
We learned early on when you play sports, sometimes you get hurt. Injuries were part of the game. The solution was to shake it off.
Most of the time, he was right.
Except for when I broke my arm…and my wrist…and thumb…and ankle…and all of my toes.
Don’t get the wrong idea. We were not abused as children. We were loved.
Sports injuries were part of our childhood. We had ankle sprains from basketball, broken wrists from the trampoline, and a continuous string of soccer bruises. We stepped on nails running outside without shoes. We broke windows throwing footballs and ended our evenings quenching our thirst, drinking water straight from the garden hose.
I lived on ice packs and athletic tap. My dad would stick my ankle in a bucket of ice, and we moved on.
One soccer practice, I fell backward and snapped my wrist. It was not the first time. He saw me cradle my arm in a way that he had learned over the years was sure to indicate a fracture.
So we sat down for dinner first.
He knew we were in for a long night with X-rays and plaster of Paris. Why go through the ER on an empty stomach?
“Drink a glass of water and go walk around the block.”
On Father’s day, we reflect on Dad’s impact on our lives. The bad dad jokes, long-winded stories, and goofy sayings imprinted on our minds. They stuck with us. I hear myself tell my son expressions like, “A job half done is a job undone.”
Dad was a great listener but did not usually give direct advice. Instead, he told stories and parables. He shared from his life experience. We had to make sense of it all.
He forced us to think for ourselves and find our own way.
As a teenager, it was annoying. I did not want to hear anything he had to say. But I was still listening.
As an adult, I appreciate the greatest gift a father could give.
In our formative years, we process the world’s complexities through our parents’ experiences. I watched him navigate the world.
Through him, I learned genuine empathy and the value of treating all people with respect. To understand other people’s behaviors, we had to understand their emotions and motivations. Everyone was fundamentally good on the inside, although they may do bad things sometimes.
Dad taught us grit. “Nothing worth doing is easy.” We learned perseverance, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” To achieve success, we had to set a goal and work for it. Hard work and effort lead to victory. “If you want something bad enough, earn it.”
Now I am 47 years old with four children of my own. He is still the one I go to when I need to sort through a complex issue. He is my trusted ear when I need to hear the truth.
It is his wisdom I lean on. It is his words coming out of my mouth when I talk with my children.
I still want to make him proud.
But after all these years, he still does not give direct advice. Instead, he listens. He empathizes and then forces us to think.
He asks the tough questions like, “what do you hope to accomplish” or “what do you hope is the end result.”
He helps us arrive at the central core issues. We find the answers we had with us all along.
We all stumble. We all fall. We all break things.
But we are not broken.
Most of the time we can follow Dad’s words “grab a glass of water and take a walk around the block.”
This post was previously published on ILLUMINATION and is republished here with permission from the author.
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