My father is a man who loves tradition. When we were children, he and my mother found great ways to make traditions out of whatever seemed to happen. My birthday is on the 4th of July, so one year we were heading out of town for a long weekend on the morning of the 4th. In an effort to avoid traveling with all those unopened presents and a cake, we celebrated at breakfast with cake and ice cream (at least two of the four food groups represented) and presents. We all loved it, so from that time on, we celebrated all of our birthdays at breakfast. It was a grand way to start your birthday and many of us still celebrate that way as adults. He also introduced a ladybug in the toe of our Christmas stockings and yearly summer vacations as a family. Although we didn’t appreciate his tradition of leaving for the road at 5:00 a.m., we all learned to endured it without too much complaint.
As a child, I saw my father carry on a tradition from his own father. I was always delighted to hear him ask, “Whose girl are you?” My answer was always the same, “Yours!” It only got confusing when my grandfather would ask me the same question. This tradition made me feel loved, even adored by the most important men in my life. Studies have shown the importance of strong male role models for both girls and boys. Girls with strong male role models are less likely to engage in dangerous behavior as teenagers. I’ve been blessed by the wonderful example my father has given me of what it means to be a responsible and loving husband and father. This example will bless many generations.
I so appreciate the tradition of faith that my father has passed on from his father and many generations that came before him. I’m blessed by the faithfulness of my father and the many ways that he has taught me lessons of faith. I learned the importance of listening to the Spirit when we went to Disneyland as a young family. There were four children ranging in age from ten to four. My grandparents came along, so there was a one to one ratio of children to adults, but the park is a very big place. My youngest sister somehow found her way onto Main Street unattended and panicked when she realized she was lost. My father was in a shop and felt that he needed to go out into Main Street and walk toward the other end. As he did this, he found a nice woman who had found the crying, lost girl. His sensitivity to the spirit avoided what could have been a terrifying experience for both my parents and my lost little sister.
Service has also been an important tradition I learned from my father. When we were young, our congregation had the assignment of helping to cultivate what seemed like acres of tomatoes throughout the summer. This meant going out to the church farm about once a month to weed. Now, mind you, I’ve never enjoyed gardening much, but this was even worse than normal gardening. There was none of the fun, just weeding. And tomatoes meant tomato bugs. If you’re not familiar with them, be grateful. They’re like something out of a bad dream – plump and green and big, at least by bug standards. I think Jaba the Hut was patterned after a tomato bug. In spite of the tomato bugs, and even because of them, we had our work cut out for us. I think it would have been easier for my parents to leave us home and get the work done without us, but they took us every time. We learned to work. We associated with people who were enjoying themselves while serving. We learned to serve with a happy heart. At least that was the intended lesson. I’ll admit that I choose my service outside of the farming industry now, but I still enjoy helping others.
Perhaps the most important tradition passed on from my father, is the tradition of life-long learning. My father is dyslexic and has always struggled with reading. I remember him asking me how to spell really easy words when I was ten or twelve and actually telling my father to sound it out. It’s a very embarrassing memory now, but I think I’ve gotten over my rudeness and I know my father has forgiven my childish behavior (over and over again, I’m grateful to say). In spite of the struggle that reading has always been, he continues to read books that are difficult by any standard and that help him grow in ways that only books can. He encourages and enjoys the lively discussions that result from reading things that challenge your norms. I love that my father trusted me to read information that was critical of my religion when I was in high school. It helped me grow spiritually and to trust my own intellect. My father is a very wise man, and learned to boot.
I continue to learn from my father and hope to for many years to come. His example of love, service and learning continue. For that I am grateful. Happy Father’s Day dad!