An Ode To My Dad

An Ode To My Dad

I lost my father to cancer in June of 2016. There’s not a day that passes I don’t think of him and realize how much of him lives on in me. I wrote this for myself, for my own memory, but want to have a piece of him here on my blog.

My dad taught me how to fish: that it isn’t real fishing if you have the man bait, cast, and clean; if you only hook the fish and reel it in – you have to do it all yourself. You have to dive right in, get those slimy fish hands – the kind that smell foul for days, cling to your skin and seep into your clothes. He taught me how to win the bet for the biggest fish: to stay out on the lake all day, until men were too drunk to remember the bet and they’d already cut the heads off their whoppers.

He taught me real camping is getting dirty, without showers for days. Grubby, stinky, with greasy hair sticking out in all directions, not a hairbrush in sight, only allowing the occasional tooth brushing with a bottle of water, and that a well rounded woman looks just as good filthy as she does dolled up.

I learned all of the world’s problems are solved around a campfire, and no matter what anyone else says, the teepee method is best way to start it.

Camping with his buddies was an education in what men really talk about away from their wives. I’d stay awake in my tent for hours just listening, my ears burning, acquiring some real doosies to share on the playground after the weekend – and I believe it’s truly benefited me in both of my chosen professions.

He taught me that shoes melting together, splinters the size of small logs, falls, bruises, and busted, bloody lips from gun recoil are all common place among groups of men on camping trips, and not to be mentioned once you return home. Or when they burn random things, such as old boats, and think it funny to sit in the boat, let you sit in the boat pretending to fish with the flames leaping and surrounding you, you definitely don’t tell mom.

He taught me snipe hunting is a rite of passage, Spam is pretty damn tasty, Jack Daniels bottles become some strange, clutched male appendage and by mid-afternoon makes men crazy, and you always crack a beer first thing in the morning while camping – even if it’s still dark.

He taught me a lawn mower is one of a man’s most prized possessions. It doesn’t matter how much mom argues, or if it takes decades of payments to Sears, he’s going to get the best one. And it will be shiny. A John Deere, for sure.

He taught me yard care is very important, and mole hills mean full days of marching around the yard with an axe, never giving up until the beast has met its grisly end. A mole trap’s success is measured by the bits of dried, crusty remains still clinging to it. I learned a man can stand out in the yard for hours doing absolutely nothing, and I still have no clue what they think about out there, if anything.

An Ode To My Dad - Memorable Lessons Ashley Alyyn

He taught me to ride a bike, a four wheeler, and to build a fort as well as any boy in the neighborhood. He taught me to bat off a Don Mattingly tee, and when I didn’t take an interest in softball, he told me it was fine as long as I found passion in something. It might have been a slight disappointment I never loved softball, but he didn’t show it. In his response I learned patience and acceptance.

He taught me living with a perfectionist can be utterly exhausting – the lawn mowed just so, the edges just right, the correct, particular way for this and that – but from it I learned if you sound like you know what you’re talking about, few will argue with you.

He taught me to exercise caution when giving a man a credit card; that that piece of plastic could be on fire within a few hours, along with mom.

He taught me betting on sports is fun, especially when you bring home a stack of stubs from the Cal-Neva and follow your bets for weeks, and you should never interrupt a man watching sports when money’s on the line. He taught me sardines, vienna sausages, and potted meats are an undervalued food group and the spare napkin you keep in your front breast pocket has multiple uses – it can be used for tp, blowing your nose, writing notes, or wrapping little morsels of food to be kept at arms length for days.

Apparently, you can build up an immunity to bacteria, either that, or the paranoia about such bacteria is drastically exaggerated. If the food ever surpasses its coffee table life, you just feed it to the cat. This trick is multifaceted: you have a convenient snack, nourish the cat, and you keep mom from realizing you didn’t eat dinner.

I also learned water is overrated. A person can survive off of coffee and greyhounds for a long damn time. Milk too. There’s enough calcium in cheese.

I learned when you receive an invitation to do something and don’t want to leave the house, complain and moan and drag your heels, but your spouse somehow manages to get you out, you’ll likely be the last man standing, having fun, yet you’ll forget the next time around and do the same exact thing.

I learned an article of clothing is still acceptable when it’s threadbare and holey, flannels during the hottest part of the summer are comfortable, and hats should be worn just barely resting on the top of your head.

The expression about dirty laundry ‘standing on its own’ is pure fallacy: you can wear the same pair of pants for a week, easy, and if anything, they do the opposite of stiffen. Wear them long enough and they’re so soft and baggy you can’t even tell if there’s a butt in there – unless they’re so threadbare you can see through them. Then you just stick the item in the closet for a few decades.

He taught me the stories about older people going to bed early and needing less sleep are bs. It doesn’t matter how old you are; if you want to stay up until 2am watching Bonanza reruns and sleep in til 1 in the afternoon, you go right ahead and do it. It might irritate your spouse while they’re trying to accomplish housework, but sometimes in life people are just stuck with you – despite your multitude of annoying habits.

On that note, I learned if you don’t want your spouse to clean or reorganize your space, you create what I like to call ‘a nest’ in the TV room. You clutter an area of virtually everything you own around your lazy boy, on coffee tables, TV trays, ottomans, and even the floor, so you never need to get up for anything (including snacks wrapped into those handy napkins previously mentioned), and your spouse will ignore it.

I learned the irritation of someone using all but one cube of ice in every single tray, and that the most stubborn person usually wins the argument, but the cost may be more than it’s worth. He taught me when you react to anger – particularly a woman’s – with silence you can get one of two very different reactions, depending on the day.

He taught me a huge eye-crinkling grin or a genuine bubbling laugh are two of the most beautiful things in the world, and that nothing of monetary value comes close to emulating the joy and full heart these bring. He taught me humility – that you can be ridiculously talented and accomplished and never need to talk about it. He helped me with confidence – if you know your value, others will too. You don’t need to boast, talk yourself up, or put others down.

He taught me we make impressions that last a lifetime, and bonds can last forever, even if we never see those people again. He taught me how to be content in my own company, to enjoy the simple pleasures like the outdoors and silence, and the peace of just being around the people you love without having to say a word.

He tried to teach me you don’t need to speak much to get your point across, but those who know me know that never really stuck. And now, even after he’s gone, he’s still teaching me things. He’s teaching me that those hilarious idiosyncrasies and little quirks we bring into each other’s lives will last. That he will always be with me, the best father a girl could ask for, right here, always.

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