Growing up with my Dad was not always easy. As a shy child who always preferred to blend into the background and not be seen much less heard, it was hard to have a Dad who was always seen, always heard and never hesitated to say whatever was on his mind. Whether it was his opinion on politics or the latest pun that he made up, my Dad's voice could always be heard loud and clear at the park, in my school or at religious services.
As a child this embarrassed me and as a young adult I tried to shrug it off as "not my problem." As I grow older, however, instead of shrugging off his words, I have begun to listen to them and to realize that there is a lot I can learn from my Dad.
What's unique about my Dad? My Dad talks to everyone and tells his opinion to everyone he meets because he likes everyone. That's right, it's hard to believe, but I cannot think of anyone that my father dislikes. Yes, there are people to whom he is closer than others, but I cannot think of one bad thing that he has ever said about...anyone. No matter what a person's action or decisions are, my Dad has a way of putting him in a favorable light and forgiving him for any mistakes he might have made.
My father writes a newspaper column for the local newspaper in which he comments on local news events and issues that affect his community. Several years ago, my father wrote a column suggesting that people should stop arguing over local land rights and think of the good of the whole community. Another local journalist and a friend of our family, responded by "questioning his parentage" in her newspaper. Only a few months later, I called my parents to find that they were running out to attend this journalist's daughter's wedding. "What," I said," how can you do that? Did she ever apologize?" "Well," said my Dad, "the fact is that she invited us. Maybe that's her way of apologizing. There is certainly no point in holding a grudge."
Over the course of the years, many people, including my husband and I, have called my father unrealistic and naive. This is ,well, true. Most people, including me, are just not good at turning the other cheek. But the older I get and the more time I spend raising my own family and watching my neighbors raise theirs, the more I realize that what tears families apart is the inability to forgive and move on.
I am constantly hearing stories about family members that are "not talking" are "angry at each other" or just "don't get along." In my family, we always talk. All right, sometimes we scream, sometimes we fight and often we disagree. But in the end, we are always still talking. This, in a great part, is thanks to my Dad.
A month after my wedding, my father asked me if my husband had called my father-in-law lately. "Are you crazy," I said, "he didn't come to our wedding. Why would he call him?" "Well," said my Dad," I know that he was wrong, but he's still his father."
Did we run out and call my father-in-law? You can bet we did not. In fact, at the time I thought he being ridiculous and naive. And while I still don't think that today I would do things any differently, I now realize how lucky I am to have a father who would give this advice. Whether it is a father who does not come to his son's wedding or a daughter who crashes the family car beyond repair (yes, that was me), my father is able to put it behind him and say "that's O.K., I'll give you another chance."
So while, as a child, I was sometimes embarrassed by my Dad who was always busy chatting to my teacher about the latest controversy on the school board, as an adult, I realize that this quality is closely connected to my father's basic philosophy of life. To my Dad, people are good, and so, measuring each word in a critical manner is simply unnecessary. Just as he would not criticize others, it would not occur to him that others might be sitting and criticizing him. And if that person is critical, well that doesn't bother him either, since that's O.K. with him too. For my father has what is perhaps the most important quality to keep a family together, he always sees the good in people and he can always forgive.