My Dad is just an ordinary man. He is not from royal blood, a town leader, a famous athlete or a movie star. He is just Dad. Three little letters that represent the world in a small child’s eyes. He is a humble man at heart and completely unaware of how much goodness and strength he instilled in his children. When I was growing up, he was just a man doing whatever he could to provide for and support his family. He probably has no idea of the life lessons he has taught us without meaning to. The life lessons, we caught and understood from his daily actions. How he distinguished right from wrong and the essence of being an honorable, tolerant and forgiving human being.
You can do anything just because you are YOU! You have everything you need right there within you. I can remember asking my dad, “Dad do you think I could do this?” His reply was always, “Of course you can. You’re a Jones. You can do anything.” He breathed belief into his kids by making them proud of their last name. Proud of the stock they came from. The words, “Of course you can,” would flow right out of his mouth with so much sincerity and conviction, that you knew in your heart they were true. Then, he would give me an example in our lineage of why it was true. Of someone else who blazed that trail for us. Or he would tell us we could do it just because we were “Jones.” He would breath belief into us with his words and stories while simultaneously building pride and strength in us because of our lineage.
People can only tear you down if you let them. Don’t let them inside your mind. Like every little kid, I have come to my Dad with scrapes and bruises. Some of the hardest scrapes and scars to fix are the ones that happen in our heart, or within our mind. I would come to my Dad with those too. Being a man, sometimes my Dad would just tell me to toughen up. Mostly he would say, “Don’t let them beat you. They can only win if you let them.” He would tell me, “It’s going to be O.K.” And my favorite, “Don’t worry they can’t eat you. Only the IRS can eat you!” The underlying message was always the same. You can do it. Get back in the game and finish the race.
See the possibilities within everyday situations. See what is possible when no one else can. My Dad worked in construction for almost 50 years. I watched him build some amazing things. He could always look at a building or piece of land and see the possibilities. I would watch in wonder as something would take shape and grow into a finished product. I learned to look at a room, home, piece of wood or plot of land and imagine how it could be different, better. Dad was the fix it man because of this skill. Frequently, he would be called in when a job had gone horribly wrong or was not going to finish in time. The big boss would call my Dad in when it was high pressure, and millions of dollars on the line if a hotel didn’t open in time. Dad would always come through. He was a make a way, find a way kind of man. He would see possibilities and offer solutions when others would see only failure.
No matter what, your family loves and believes in you. I am not sure how I know this. I cannot place my finger on what my parents said to make me hold this as a fact. But I know in my heart, if I had to, I could always go home. At the same time, there have been times when I have wanted to come home, lick my wounds and stay within the safe comfort of my parent’s home but my dad said no. He has told me to stay, face my situation and stick with it or fight for what was right. Those were some of the hardest times for me. I know it was hard for my dad to tell me no but those situations were also growing times for me. One of those times, I was 22, pregnant, and alone in Germany. My husband was at war. I wanted to come home. I can remember calling my Dad and crying to him over the phone. Telling him, I can’t do it. I can’t handle being alone. I’m scared. I don’t want to have this baby on my own. His reply was, “Dee Ann, you are going to have this baby. There is no going back on that.” He gave a good-natured chuckle that I can still hear. “But you can do this. You need to be there in case your husband comes home.” I stayed. It was hard, and it was lonely. My husband did come home. Two weeks before our little girl was born. I am thankful for his advice.
Sometimes people do not like you when you make them stretch and grow out of their comfort zone. Growing up I thought my dad was wonderful. He was kind and loving. Who wouldn’t like him? I remember visiting one of my Dad’s jobs in Vail, Colorado. He was building a hotel. It was a big beautiful hotel located right at the base of the mountain. Skiers would be able to ski down the slope right to their hotel room. In my eyes, it was a big deal and my Dad was making it a possible. On every job site the only bathroom was a Port-a-potty. Not a big deal. This time, I went into the Port-a-potty and came out with an education. Written on the inside walls of the Port-a-potty people had written what they thought of my Dad. Using four letter words and vocabulary I really shouldn’t have understood. I ran out, “Dad, Dad, you won’t believe what it says about you on the walls of the Port-a-potty. It’s not nice!” My dad just laughed. He walked with me, slowing his gate to match my smaller stride. “Dee Ann, sometimes people don’t want to hear that they have to do it again or do it right. They get upset when I tell them to fix things. Don’t worry about it.” He brushed his huge hand across my head. Laughed and walked away to an elevator shaft with his voice booming out commands. I watched as my dad, older than any man on his crew, hip that wouldn’t bend right, climbed up in that shaft, and helped put in the elevator. Two workers were standing behind me watching. I heard one state to the other; there was no way he would get up in there, too dangerous. I held my breath as I watched and waited. Listening to the men and my Dad figure out how to make that elevator work. My Dad and his crew kept at it till it worked. Now I realize, of course my Dad knew what was written in that port-a-potty. He used it everyday. Even knowing what was written he worked along side his men and completed that job. He made sure that job was completed, on time, and finished right the first time.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Even the little jobs, the ones you think don’t matter. Those jobs are the most important because YOU will know if you did it right or not. All of us kids have helped on my dad’s jobs. I was always on clean up crew or in the office. No job was too small to my Dad. Every job was important and his kids started with the grunt work and worked their way up. Grunt work was my specialty when I was younger. My dad handed me a broom or vacuum, a rag and a razor blade and told me to get to work. Use the razor blade to get any excess caulk or paint off the windows. Clean up and make sure the job shines. He would inspect behind me, telling me just like everyone else where to fix and how to do it better. My vacuum, I named Freddy, and I became very close and I learned to pay attention to details. I went home at night just exhausted. I kept at it under my Dad’s watchful eye. Rolling my eyes at how unimportant my job was. Who would really notice if there was a little paint on the windows? Until the day my Dad’s boss walked through the job. He praised me on how great everything looked and what a great job I was doing. My dad smiled and said that’s my daughter. The boss laughed, “Of course it is Dale. I should have known.” I felt my dad’s pride in me at that moment. I learned how important it is to do your best. How different that memory would be if I didn’t give it my best, if my dad didn’t inspect what he expected from me.
Be truthful and honest with people. Even when you know it is something they don’t want to hear. Even if it will hurt the one’s you love. People always know where they stand with Dad. He will tell you if you are “messed up”. I remember hearing stories of how Dad would be called into a meeting with the big bosses. He would walk with his distinctive gait into a fancy boardroom in his work boots, faded Levis, and work shirt over his white t-shirt. His hip didn’t bend, so he would sit crooked in his chair, slightly angled back. The boss would ask questions and the heads of the other jobs would want to please their boss so usually they would give him the answer he wanted. Dad would pretty much remain quiet. Until the boss would say, “So what do you think Dale?” My Dad never minced words. He would say it how he saw it, whether it was what the boss wanted to hear or not. He knew it was what the Boss needed to hear to get that job accomplished. Because of that, the Boss came to realize he could trust Dad.
As a kid, I learned to never call Dad unless you wanted the bare truth. He would always be truthful with you and if you wanted things sugar coated he was not the one to ask. In exchange, I value his opinion. I know he will tell it to me straight and then I can make my own decision with his input.
Always have a place to think. Dad always had his garage to go to if he needed to get away and have time to himself or time to think. He would head to his garage. It was his domain and his world. A place where he could contemplate or just be. It was there I could go to him to talk out my problems. Full of childish self-importance, I would tell him what I thought in both everyday and world events. He never criticized. He would say, “You think so, Dee Ann?” Then he would state how he felt. He didn’t argue his point. He let me come to my conclusion on my own. He made everyday of life a learning lesson. Some of my problems were easy and he could help me solve them quickly.
As time went on and I grew into an adult, I had adult decisions to make. Then my Dad started to say; “I can’t answer that for you. You will have to make that decision on your own.” He knew that I would have to live with the consequences of my decisions. I remember when I wanted to join the military. My mother cried. My dad looked up and down at me, assessed me and addressed me as an adult, eye to eye. “It is up to you. Only you can make that decision. Just know, once made it’s a done deal.” I learned you have to make your own decision in life, good or bad, and stand by your decision. Once you have made up your mind, do not second-guess or question yourself, move forward.
Never speak badly about your spouse and never allow your children to speak badly about their mother to you. When my dad spoke the words, “To love, honor and cherish. Till death do us part.” He meant those words. He made a sacred oath to his wife, himself and to God. He showed me if you love someone you love all of them, even the good and the bad. I could come to my dad about anything, except to criticize my mother. I remember coming to my dad once in my teen years full of anger, and self importance. Telling him how wrong my mother was. How she didn’t know anything. He shut me down mid sentence. He didn’t have time for that kind of talk. He sent me on my way, my ears ringing from the heat in his words. My dad isn’t a man of many words until it comes to defending his wife. My parents were and still are a united front, a team. I learned that marriage is a team effort with give and take on both sides. My parents just celebrated their 50th Anniversary.
The greatest lesson I learned is perseverance. If you fall, get back up and get back in the game. My dad had Perthes Disease as a child. It was noticed when he was in the third grade. He missed the last two weeks of the third grade. Spent almost his whole 4th grade year with his left leg in a cast. The bones in his hip dissolved and in his 5th grade year he had an operation in which the doctors chipped part of the bone out of his right leg and placed it with a pin in his left hip. Once he left the hospital he spent a year in a body cast. His mother used to take old irons and hang them off his foot to help straighten his legs. It was a total of two years he was out of school. His mother home schooled him and a teacher came in to give him tests. Dr. Hall fondly remembered my dad as the patient who never complained.
When my dad was thirteen he was sitting on the couch talking with his father. His father had just returned from a visit with the doctor and had come home to change before going back to the hospital for more tests. In the middle of their conversation his father had what looked like a massive stroke. A blood clot had worked its way up to his brain. His father passed away before help could come.
When I was in 5th grade my dad was working on a construction site unloading sheetrock from a truck. The wind caught the sheet rock and slammed it against my dad’s head and neck. My dad was partly paralyzed on the right side. He had a wife and five children to support. He subsidized his income by trucking water until he regained control of the movement on his right side.
I have never heard my dad complain. He always says, “That’s just the way it was.” As tough as he was on the men on his job, many of them followed him from one job to the next, even if it was out of state or in Canada. I have always found comfort in walking with my dad. His slowed gate, the way his body sways. My dad walks with a limp and today his foot has completely turned inward so that he walks on the outside of his foot instead of the bottom. He sends his work boots out to be built up to enable him to walk. He always shows me his ‘spiffy’ new shoes.
My dad is an extra-ordinary man. An extraordinary man, who kept moving forward no matter what life dealt him. To me he is a king, the leader of our family, an athlete who conquered injuries, and a movie star! He recently celebrated his seventy-second birthday. I realize how extremely blessed I am to be able to pick up a phone and call him. Just yesterday he told me, “I love you, Dee Ann” when we ended our conversation. Three simple words that warm a heart. Lesson Eleven Always tell your children I love you before you say goodbye…and the learning continues.