Father's day... I'm not a father myself, unless you count all the dogs and cats we've shared our life with over the years. But each year on this day, especially for the past four years (since my own father died), when I see all the ads for “Father’s Day” pop up, I think of my dad.
It's been over three and a half years now since he died, and ten years since our last trip together. Despite the passage of time, nearly every day something happens that makes me think of him. Usually it's some little thing, and nearly always the memory catches me completely by surprise. For instance, yesterday while I was fixing a gate to our enclosed back yard, I had a vivid memory of my dad showing me how to fix a much smaller gate in a customer's yard. The customer was a sweet little old lady in Princeton, NJ, named Mrs. Dickinson (not sure I've spelled that correctly). She had a walk-through gate about 3' wide in the fence on the south side of her back yard. That gate had come off its pins, much like the gate I was fixing yesterday. I was perhaps 12 or 13 years old, and it was a mystery to me how to fix it – but that's the job my dad gave me. He watched me puzzling over it for a while, then gave me a tiny little hint – and then I was able to work the rest out for myself. My dad was good at teaching that way – mostly he let me try to figure things out on my own, then when I made mistakes would gently let me know how I might have done things better. On that gate, for instance, I remember that it hung slightly off-level when I thought I'd finished. He demonstrated the tilt for me (by letting a screwdriver roll on it), then challenged me to fix it. I was able to figure that out. Most of the “teaching” really was letting me figure it out, as opposed to anything resembling a lecture. By the time I was ready to learn about electronics (and later, programming), figuring things out on my own was the norm for me ... due in no small part to my dad's challenges to me.
All of those thoughts were in my head yesterday as I fixed that gate. That may be a funny way of remembering my dad, but it seems to work for me...
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