On Love, Forgiveness and Other Crappy Lessons My Dad Taught Me

My dad recently turned 72. I still think he’s in his 40’s but I’m apparently deluded! He’s a sassy, sarcastic beast, well loved by his family and friends. His laughter and deep voice can be heard for miles – I’m sure of it! Many moments and memories flash through my mind as I try to weave the story that is my Dad.

One of my most vivid childhood memories with my dad is of him coming home from work, twirling me around above his head and laughing with me while I giggled gleefully, feeling special and loved in that moment. I also remember a moment when he yelled at us girls with that deep voice of his because we were too close to the road playing games. Another form of love (albeit scary)! That voice.

My parents got married at the ripe old age of 17 and 18…because they ‘had to’. They’re still married 53 years later, with 5 children, 18 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren! I never heard my parents fight when we were young. Does that indicate pure love? Maybe, maybe not. It does indicate wisdom (think about their ages when they were parenting us) that it was important to maintain a unified front, regardless of the topic. There was none of this, “Go ask your mom” stuff. It was, “Have you asked your Mom? What did she say?” Whatever the answer was (going either way), is the answer that stood. It’s not what you’d call fairy tale love, but it sure was a good example of how love should live.

Dad has always been passionate about 3 things: hockey, golf and flying. He taught us to follow our dreams when he got his pilot’s license in 1972. I clearly recall my first time in the little airplane. I’d eaten a lot of red licorice before we took off on that flight, something I ought not have done! He’s still flying 40+ years later!

When it comes to hockey, well, we’ve never agreed on a team. When I go home for a visit he makes it clear that should I mention “Oilers”, I can leave the same way I came. His golf game has taught me about priorities, practice and performance. He’s won so many tournaments, has travelled with Pro-Am and still expects to beat everyone else’s scores – or there really isn’t much point of being out on the course. Unless the cronies are there. Then by all means, be there.

In recent years, I have felt somewhat abandoned as his kid. Sure I’m an adult, but I still want to know he’s proud of me and thinks I’m okay. My aunt was sick so he flew here (Calgary) to see her. I’d had 2 surgeries and he hadn’t even called to ask how I was doing, never mind come for a visit. Mom always filled him in, ya know? I felt like I didn’t matter, that others were more important than I was, his own daughter.  It hurt but I never said anything to him. Then I recounted all the times he’s flown here to pick up my kids to take them back to stay at their house in the summer, to help me with child care and to give my kids something to do. Cool memories for my kids too, flying with their Grandpa in the airplane! How amazing is that? If that isn’t showing his love for me, I don’t know what is. In forgiving him for something he doesn’t even know he did, I found perspective. It’s so much about how we condition ourselves to see things.

From the time my memory recalls anything, one thing I know to be true. My dad is well loved by his community of friends. He’s there for them, they’re around for him. Coffee cronies, lifelong connections. The lesson I learned from my dad about friendship? You’re nothing if you’re not a good friend.

My dad has never not worked, unless he didn’t want/need to for a couple of years at the ripe old age of 40. He didn’t last long though, because he couldn’t stand being bored and we couldn’t stand watching his brain go to mush. He’s still working into his 70’s because he can and he wants to. I hope I have that same attitude and ability when I hit that place in my life.

Dad grew up and lived in the same city his entire life…well, except for a one year stint in the big city. What I learned from him is that even when the going gets tough it’s important to create roots, community and commitment.

Sometimes the good stuff we learn in life comes from some crappy lessons. You make your bed, you lie in it. If things get messed up, then ask for help and your mother and I will be there for you.  Two of the biggest life lessons I’m proud to have learned from my dad.


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  1. #1 by this mom's got something to say ... on December 21, 2013 - 8:37 pm

    Your papa may not say it all that often but you’re right …. he does love you. You are also one gosh-darned, un-friggen-beliveably awesome individual and THAT tells me that you are loved. I love you Friend. A whole lot.

    • #2 by shandracarlson on December 21, 2013 - 9:44 pm

      Oh April, thanks for that. A whole lot. Love you too!

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    "Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." ~ Jack Kerouac
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