I wish I could pinpoint a day when I learned a significant lesson from my dad or one of my granddads. I cannot. There doesn’t seem to be a particular moment that sticks out in my head.
I wish I could remember the birds and the bees talk. All I recall about that is at the age of 6 my wise older brother taught me a very, very bad word. As the story goes, I used it when the boy across the street stole my matchbox car city. And I used it with the zest of a mother calling for her children to come home for dinner. My voice carried all over Glendale Acres. It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad made it down the three sets of stairs in our split level house in three giant leaps. I recall a conversation about that word – I’m not sure how detailed he got. But I didn’t use it again for a very long time.
Although I can’t remember a specific ah-hah moment that turned me into a man, I do recall time. Time with these men, doing the mundane.
I recall hanging on my dad’s shoulders at the beach with what to me were humongous waves smacking us in the head. And with each wave my father would say, “That was rude and unacceptable!” I laughed and laughed to see him act as if the wave had gotten the best of him.
I remember squeezing into the cab of my granddaddy Tanner’s pickup truck each time we went to visit. The three musketeers – Woodrow, my brother and me. It was tradition to go get a Slurpee at the local 7 – 11. It seemed that I never had one unless I was in South Carolina visiting him. And to me it was like nectar from the gods.
My other grandfather, Papa, owned a small convenience store. I’d spend a week with him each summer and would pump gas. The pay: all the candy I could eat! I remember him pulling out a brown bag on Saturday just before my parents were to arrive to pick me up. He’d walk over to the candy rack and would watch me collect my booty. “Here, these are good, take a few more.” My eyes would glaze over at the thought of the weeks to come with my sugary stash.
This attention that they gave, just focused on me – showing me that I was worth their time – actually did more to develop me into the person I am than any significant lecture or event or vacation.
I hope my kids remember the Invisible Daddy Handbook that’s always in my pocket. I hope they remember sitting on the couch and learning to master a bow tie, just in case their husbands don’t know how to tie one. Or shagging to beach music in the kitchen. Time – on a daily basis.
When it all shakes out, my bet is that will be the most powerful lesson they take.