Lessons from our Father's
In honor of Father’s day and all the hard working dad’s out there, our Girls on the Grid writers share stories, memories and the most important lessons they learned from their father’s.
Maria Hill: When I was a teenager one of my Dad’s favorite phrases was “make sure you write everything down now while you know it all because someday you will get older and forget everything.” In my teen years this was typically met with an eye roll or a door slam, but now in my mid-30s I really get it. I always thought once I reached adulthood (whatever that means) my life would magically fall into place and I would reach some enlightened place where I would know how to handle anything life throws at me. As it turns out most of the adults I know, present company included, are really just making it up as we go along. So Dad thanks for teaching me it is ok to learn as you go, ask for help, and chase new challenges. I really wish I had taken your advice and written all my wisdom down, I might be able to use some of it now to navigate adulthood!
Chelsea Irvine: When I close my eyes and try my hardest to envision it, I think it is the picture of his peace sign-patterned high top Chuck Taylors, perfectly mis-matching the multi-colored fleece vest with “Stop the Iraq War” and “Impeach Bush” pins, paired with tan cargo shorts (in the middle of winter) and a LL Bean button-down utility shirt that fully brings home the biggest lesson my dad taught me: Be you.
My dad was an unapologetic socks-with-(faux) Birkenstocks guy. He was an avid rebel rouser and never backed down from his (incredibly well-educated) opinions, or got angry, no matter who the discussion was with. He wore loud Hawaiian shirts and sometimes listened to celtic music. He was as cool to my younger self as he was embarrassing. But all that time I was hiding from his goofiness, I learned the most important lesson. You only get one life. Make it the best you can, be honest to yourself and be proud of your uniqueness. It’s a hard lesson to learn in adolescence, and I still struggle to own myself in my 30’s. But every time I put on my political pins, wear my tutu to a baseball game (festival, party, basically anywhere I can) or dawn my wild socks to the gym, it’s a little tribute to my dad, and my way of saying thanks for teaching me weird is ok.
Danielle Ball: My dad has always had some interesting advice. Growing up, one of the most common phrases I heard was, “Want in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up the fastest.” (One of many gems that he repeats often.) This was devastating to hear in the toy aisle or when I wanted an advance in my allowance, and it infuriated me as a teenager.
It’s only now, 20ish years later that I understand what he meant. My dad has worked hard for everything he has. He’s made sacrifices and spent each day since he was young making sure that everything we needed was taken care of. He didn’t wish for things, he worked for them. My dad taught me the value of hard work and determination and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Kelli Carr: I remember coming home for Christmas in 2006. I was living in Washington DC at the time and my dad had just been diagnosed with lung cancer one month earlier. Although it was extremely devastating, I remained optimistic about his health and was confident he would fight to beat this ugly thing.
My dad was the kind of guy who seemed to somehow cheat death all the time! Falling off a sailboat, having his hand crushed in a metal press, getting electrocuted at work, and so many more wild and crazy stories. If nothing before had taken him down, this certainly wouldn’t either!
When my mom, dad and I arrived home from the airport and settled in, I remember feeling different walking in to my childhood home this time. That “different” feeling lasted the next two weeks of my vacation and being around my dad taught me to slow down. Slow way down. To listen. To laugh. To ask questions. To just sit. To be with family without somewhere else to go, someone else to see, and something else to do.
Our family never discussed the cancer over that time, but I have a feeling we all knew that this would be the last Christmas with him. At least, I just knew it would be. At the time, I got down on myself thinking it was morbid to think such things. But now I’m so glad I allowed the seriousness of his health to get rid of my agenda, schedule and plans. I didn’t need to be anywhere else but at home with him. This may not be the most uplifting lesson or memory with my dad, but it is my favorite. Because sitting next to him knowing our time may be cut short, allowed me to see beyond the busyness of life and see what was real, lasting and memorable. That did end up being the last Christmas my dad was alive. I think about him every single day and couldn’t be more thankful for this lesson I learned through him.