Growing up in our family was, for lack of a better description, NOT boring. Ever. And if you know Dad, you probably know precisely what I mean. Whether we were painting the fence for the gazillionth time, or hiking out to Blue Lake with 2-ton scuba tanks on our backs to get our scuba certifications because Dad LOOOOOOVES subjecting himself and his children to the possibility of becoming barracuda bait for reasons I will never understand, we were constantly on the go (I have a thing for run-on sentences). I can't begin to count the number of times he coaxed us into action with the phrase, "work hard, play hard". I got so sick of hearing it that I SWORE to never say it to my own kids. Yeah, that lasted for like a week. I catch myself quoting that phrase along with loads of other Dad-isms on a regular basis these days. Such as, we don't want to get bogged down, and the best ideas haven't been thought of yet. There was, a job worth doing is worth doing well, which as my brother pointed out, really meant, please mow 2 or 3 more times in different directions. And my personal favorite, this too shall pass, (this one went over suuuuper well when I was 16 years old and had just broken up with my boyfriend). Surprisingly, I now find great satisfaction in watching my children's reactions to all of the word malarkey I picked up from my father. I would even venture to guess that someday they'll be spewing many of the same catch phrases at their own children. Some things never change I guess.
The thing is though (and truly, it pains me to admit this), my dad was right on. His catch phrases, while annoying, were instrumental in teaching us about the things that were really important in life. But he didn't only guide us with words. More often than not, he followed his own advice. And I can't think of a single time that he failed to apologize when he broke one of his own cardinal rules, which was an example in and of itself. Because, you know, "actions speak louder than words" and all. That one usually gets the most dramatic of eye rolls from my children. It's so glorious.
I could tell you story after story about things Dad has done that have taught me and my siblings important lessons. Or I could just show you. Yes, let's do that instead. I told you earlier, I have no idea where this is going. Which is true. But I did ask my siblings to send me some of their favorite pictures. Oh, this is going to be so much fun..
He's never really had to say it.
He just does it, and always has.
We've all followed suit.
Except for that one scuba diving incident where most of us got sea sick and hurled (3rd picture down - don't be deceived by our smiling faces).
Take turns holding each other like babies.
Okay, I might have made this one up.
But I had to use these pictures.
Celebrate life and the joy of getting older.
Or just refuse to grow up.
That's cool too.
The importance of perfecting a good smooch.
Rock out whenever the mood strikes.
And then pray the pictures don't end up on the Internet (that part didn't work out very well).
Love your family...
And serve your fellow man.
Remember the power of prayer...
and what it means to really have faith in the face adversity.
The past 5 months have been hard. I bet they've been harder than I could possibly know. My siblings and I have watched our father go through things that have ripped away a piece of our innocence. That might sound naive coming from a grown woman, but it's the truth. And yet, if I had to guess, I'd say we don't know the half of what it's actually been like for him. There have most likely been lots sleepless nights and lonely pain filled days. That's pretty much how cancer works. It sneaks up on you, and then becomes the main event in every minute of every day. It's awful. And hard. And relentless. But I've never heard him ask, "why me". I've never seen him forget to smile when someone drops by for a visit, no matter how horrible he feels. I've noticed a new kind of tenderness and sincerity in his voice when he asks me if I'm happy with my life. He hugs his grand kids a little bit tighter than he used to. He gets to know everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) he comes into contact with. And we're talking first name basis here. Amid the uncertainty and anxiety regarding his situation, there's a calmness to his demeanor that is almost palpable. My dad has taught me more over the past few months than he has in the 33 years prior. As difficult as it's been to witness his struggles, I'm thankful I've had the opportunity to watch, and learn, and once again, be reminded of the things in life that matter most. There's a saying that goes, "A real father is his son's first hero, and his daughter's first love". I think my siblings would all agree that in our case, nothing has ever been quite as true.