My father taught me how to mow the yard. It was a huge yard, and we had a riding mower. At first, I was so small that my foot wouldn’t reach the brake. When I was finished mowing, I had to drive around until I found my Dad, who would run up beside me, then hop along with one foot on the brake until the mower stopped. My Mom stayed inside, refusing even to look out the windows.

My father taught me how to change the oil in my first car (which was actually a pick-up truck, and I had to sit on the fender with my feet inside to reach the oil). He also taught me how to drive a stick-shift and how to turn up the radio when my truck made a random funny noise.

12-22 Jo n Papaw
My father with my son (c) Carole Sparks

When I was younger, my father taught me how to plant corn and green beans together so the beans use the corn stalk like a pole. We would drop the seeds into holes and press them down with our toes. That sensation of curling my bare toes in the freshly-turned earth…oh, it’s been a long time.

My father taught me how to adjust the rabbit ears on top of the TV (showing my age now) and how part of the reason you have children is so they can do things for you. Okay, maybe that one’s not such a good lesson.

The unintentional lessons
are often more important.

Those four things, he taught me intentionally. But the unintentional lessons are more important…maybe more important than driving.

4 Important Things I Learned from my Father (that he probably didn’t realize he was teaching me)

A well-told story is always appropriate.

My father had a knack for telling a good story. He wouldn’t necessary volunteer, but if you asked, he would share something from his childhood or his years working on the railroad. Maybe that’s why I’m so interested in “story.”

Recovery is best started immediately.

I had a car wreck when I was sixteen and totaled my truck. He made me drive his truck home from the scene of the accident. With that simple action, he squashed any thought I had of becoming timid or afraid behind the wheel.

He climbed in the passenger seat,
offering the comfort of his presence
and his confidence in my ability.

Thing is, he didn’t make me drive alone. He climbed in the passenger seat, offering the comfort of his presence and his confidence in my ability to drive. I think I held my breath the full mile home, but the next day, I could drive without fear.

Helping people isn’t a public event.

My father’s family wasn’t wealthy, and he worked for everything we had. From the time I was in grade school (maybe earlier), he worked a part-time job on top of his full-time railroad job. I learned by accident that he helped our neighbors with winter fuel and other necessities. He wanted no recognition for himself but just quietly, often anonymously, did what needed to be done.

Not everyone’s faith is emotional.

His quiet faith ran deep, more
like an underground river than
a splashing, noisy stream.

My father took us to church and even served there in various ways through the years. He would stand with everyone else for singing, but he didn’t sing. He never raised a hand in worship, and he never “walked the aisle” for any reason. He would pray aloud if the pastor asked, but that wasn’t often. I didn’t realize it until I was an adult, but a silence isn’t the same as an absence. His quiet faith ran deep, more like an underground river than a splashing, noisy stream. If you knew him, however, you knew he had a relationship with God.

12-24a morning at Papaw's (29)
My Dad and me, back when I had really short hair (c) Carole Sparks

Sure, my father could have shared more and could have volunteered more wisdom. I especially wish we had talked more about his faith. He could have been more vocal at and about church. He could have encouraged me more. But now, just over a year since his death, I’m content with the things he taught me on purpose and the things I learned from the way he lived.

“Silence isn’t the same as absence” and other things I learned from my father, for #FathersDay this year. It’s #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

What did you learn from your father, whether he intended a lesson or not? I know some of us don’t have positive memories of our fathers, and I’m sorry if this post makes you sad. Is there another man in your life from whom you learned important life lessons? I’d love to hear from all of you in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “Four Things My Father Taught Me and Four Other Things I Learned from Him

  1. Silence isn’t the same as absence—this is encouraging because my husband isn’t very vocal about his faith with his family. He teaches and writes about his faith but doesn’t vocalize it to his kids often. I hope the kids are seeing it in him the way you did in your father.

    Liked by 1 person

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