The lessons Dad taught me have led to the satisfying life I lead today.
I have an amazing dad, who morphed into the Best Grandpa in the World in, like, 30 seconds. He worked intently to create a relationship with my stepkids from the beginning. My dad found some army men, bought a Play Station, dug out my old Barbies, and refurbished my old bike. He then proceeded to give them both his most valuable commodities—his time and wisdom.
Enter the Little Worrells. Before our younger kids went to school, he spent his days with my mom looking after those two little hoodlums while I worked. He drove them both around on his tractor, bought them a toy Gator and cut trails through the field for it, and he learned to do the Hot Dog Dance. We have great pictures of him on Buzz Lightyear’s ride at Disney World intently shooting aliens with our youngest son. Since it’s Father’s Day, though, I need to discuss his parenting prowess a little. I want to share a
few rules my father beat into my thick head lessons dad taught me while growing up.
From the time I was young, lessons Dad taught me centered around persistence and sticking up for myself.
Other kids would walk all over me when I was younger. This drove my father insane.
“Why do you let them take toys from you?” he would ask me after friends had left my toys strewn all over my room. “Why don’t you make them help you clean up?”
Whenever uncles and older cousins would pick on me, he would ask, “Why don’t you give it right back to them?”
I didn’t know what he meant by “giving it back,” so the next time my uncle picked on me, I mooned him. I knew at five-years-old, I wasn’t allowed to tell adults to kiss my butt, so I could only give the signals. Shocked everyone, but I think my dad was secretly proud.
He also demanded that I require respect from people of the male persuasion.
When I was about nine, my mom gave me a book about puberty, and we discussed it in great detail. I knew all about Aunt Flo, but I hadn’t yet acquired a clear understanding of what the birds and the bees did after The Love Boat and Dallas went off on Saturday nights. There were some boys in my class at school who were doing some independent investigation by snapping bras and attempting to look up skirts.
When I shared this information with my dad, the vein in his forehead began to throb a little.
Dad pulled me into the living room. He closed my hands into fists.
“This is what I want you to do when some boy says or does something stupid like that to you,” he said, showing me how to punch. We sparred for several minutes before bed that night.
The next week, that same little boy tried to look up my skirt. I cold-cocked him flat on the floor. He didn’t mess with me again, and I didn’t get in trouble. Those were the days when kids knocked each other in the head to solve their differences apparently.
Of all the lessons Dad taught me, though, his boating advice sticks out.
My parents their passion for all things nautical on to me. They bought me a little skiff for my eleventh birthday, and my dad spent hours teaching me to navigate the rivers near our home. I will always value the time he took to show me all the navigational beacons, the different fishing and crabbing buoys, and how to tell when the tide changed.
The most valuable lesson my dad taught me had to do with choppy seas.
“You want to take the sea a little to the left or right of your bow,” he told me. “You don’t want to take it head on because you’ll beat your boat to death. Don’t ever, EVER get side-to a big sea, either.”
How right he was! A big cabin cruiser wake will flip you in a heartbeat if you take the waves from the side. On land, we all know how much it sucks to find ourselves blind-sided by a nasty life event that sneaks up from the port or starboard side. Sometimes you can’t help it, but it’s always wise to stay on the look-out and keep those big ripples in front of you where you can see them.
Like Dad taught me, I try to avoid running my bow head-on into a bad situation with abrasiveness or rash choices. To this day, he always takes his time to sort things out and make good decisions before he attacks a challenge. Since he still water skis and snow skis, I’d say that life tactic has worked well for him on many different levels. His keel is in good working order, and his bolts are still screwed in tightly.
So, Dad, thanks for passing on all your wisdom to our four younger Worrells and to me. Happy Father’s Day, and I love you so much!