Saturday, June 10, 2017

10 Things My Dad Taught Me

by Shanna Hatfield

Yesterday, as I was driving into town, I was flipping through the radio stations and just happened to land on one playing "Grandpa" by The Judds.

Whenever I hear that song, it makes me think of my dad. I was blessed to be born late into our family. Dad turned 40 just a few months after I my arrival. I was only four when he became a grandfather. Half the time, I called him Grandpa to keep from confusing the grandkids, because they just didn't understand why I called him "Daddy." Sometimes, it seemed weird to have older parents, but I learned to appreciate it.

While my friends had parents who could tell them all about Woodstock and women's rights, my dad told me about the good old days.

"And Grandpa, let's wander back into the past
And paint me a picture of long ago..."

The majority of my summers were spent outside with  my dad on our farm. As he went through a day's work (and I tagged after him), he'd share nuggets of wisdom. I don't think he even knew he was doing it, sometimes, because I lot of what I learned came from observing him. 

With Father's Day fast approaching, I thought I'd share some things Daddy taught me.

1. How to Drive — I was four the first time Dad let me take the wheel of one of the farm trucks he'd put into low gear. With instructions to "just not run over the fences," I stood on the seat and turned the wheel while my family tossed rocks into the back of the truck in a section of land he wrestled out of sagebrush and turned into a field lush with alfalfa. Even though the truck drove itself with little help from me, other than not plowing down the fences on either side of the field, my little chest swelled with pride that Dad entrusted me to handle the job. I was twelve when he finally let me take our stick-shift pickup out on my own. I could drive it to my brother's house (a mile down the road) but no further.  Dad taught me one other thing about drive, the kind that has nothing to do with vehicles, but the kind that carries you far if you're willing to work hard for something. I watched my dad work hard every single day, from dawn to dusk. His drive to succeed, to build a legacy for the family, impressed me even when I didn't fully understand it. 

The pickup Dad let me drive all over the farm (and neighborhood)

2. Think Twice Before You Throw That Away — My Dad was ten years old when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. He'd been born during the Great Depression, then moved right into rationing during the war years. My two older brothers and I sometimes joke about Dad keeping everything, but when one of us is looking for something, guess who we call first? That's right - Dad.  He grew up in a generation that learned "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." He remembers doing without, far too many times. I can recall him saying, "Are you sure you want to throw that away? When it's gone, it's gone, and you can't ever get it back." He did his best to teach us why it's important not to waste anything... from the food in our cupboards to the relationships we've vowed to uphold for a lifetime. That advice has served me well, more times than I can count.

3. The Sound of Music — I can't remember a time when  Dad didn't like music. He played the trumpet in the school band and had an appreciation for a wide variety of tunes, from country music to Big Band hits, and rousing marches. The radio played constantly in the vehicles, the shop, the barn, even the tractors. Sometimes, he'd whistle along or share memories tied to a certain song. He taught me to whistle, to love music, and enjoy the uplifting feeling it brings. And yes, I tie people and events to songs, just like he does.

4. A Bond of Sweets —  My Dad has a sweet tooth that could rival most any and win. Like music, there was always (ALWAYS) candy wherever he went.  His favorites ranged from NECCO's and Bit-O-Honey, to Butter Rum Life-Savers and jawbreakers. Almost daily, Mom would tell him not to give me sugar because he was going to rot my teeth out. Dad would wait until we got out of view of the house, hand me a piece of candy and, with a wink, instruct me, "Don't tell your mother." I never did, and now, with a mouth full of crowns, wonder if perhaps I shouldn't have heeded her wisdom on this particular topic. But our little candy conspiracy was something just the two of us shared. Knowing that I was in on the secret and Dad kept it just for me was a special bond, one we both treasured. It wasn't so much the candy (okay, the candy was pretty important to a 7-year-old), but what it stood for was what really mattered. 

5. The Value of Family — Dad loves his family with all his heart. And I don't just mean Mom, my brothers, and the grandchildren. His love covers his two living siblings, my Mom's siblings, and his close friends. He still calls and talks to his sister every day. It's amazing to me to see siblings so close after 80+ years. Dad has this huge heart, one that sometimes leaves me so awed. Through the years, I've learned so many vital lessons about forgiveness, sacrifice, and grace by watching my Dad enfold those he loves within his love. He values family as though it was a rare and precious jewel and treats it as such. 

Dad with his parents, four siblings and my aunt's young family, early 1950s.
Dad is standing on the far left, holding Mom's hand. 
6. Faith — I learned a lot from Dad about having faith when it seems impossible. I can think of many times he took a leap of faith. From doing that myself, I know how hard it is, but his examples showed me faith can move mountains and to never be afraid to try. 

7. Life is Like A Puzzle — Of my two parents, my Mom keeps things neat, but Dad keeps things organized. He's always been the one to say "there's a place for everything, so put it where it belongs." (I like things both neat and organized, much to Captain Cavedweller's dismay.) Dad is a master at organization, because he will study something, puzzle over it, until he figures out the best way to move forward. He did that with his tools, and with his life problems. He taught me not to just rush into a decision, but to take a step back, to evaluate how things might work this way or that, and then figure out where each piece belongs. 

8. Pretend You are a Dog with Your Very Last Bone — My mother has been known to say once my dad set his mind on something he was like a "dog with a bone," meaning he wasn't giving up. Quitting isn't a word in Daddy's vocabulary. He taught me tenacity, persistence, and that if I want something, I need to go after it and make it happen because no one else is going to do it for me. 

9. Paint A Picture With Words — Dad loves a good joke, a good story, or a good reason to laugh. Often times, he was the one making the rest of us laugh, or sit wide-eyed as we listened to a him share a story from his youth or something he witnessed while he was working. Although he never wrote down a story, he painted pictures with his words until I felt like I was right there, watching the action unfold. He's the one who taught me to have a strong lead or hook to begin a tale, keep the story moving along, have some points of interest, and end with a bang. If I have any talent of drawing readers into my stories, the credit goes to my Dad.

10. Beauty is All Around You — One summer, I must have been about six or so, Dad and I were out doing the evening irrigating on the far end of our place when a big thunderstorm rolled in. We didn't have time to get back to the house and the only thing nearby was a big old cottonwood tree. Dad picked me up and carried me deep into a field of corn. I remember the pollen making me sneeze (I was allergic to everything from grass to cows) as Dad hunkered down in a row and set me on his knee. The thunder boomed and I jumped, but Dad told me it was just a part of nature and not to be scared. We counted the seconds between the crashes of thunder and then waited, beneath the shelter of the corn leaves, as rain poured down. While we waited out the storm, Dad showed me how corn grew and let me play with the silky tassel on a baby ear. Suddenly, the cornfield wasn't a shelter, but a mighty fortress, and I saw the beauty for the first time in a summer storm. Thanks to Dad, his wonderful imagination, and unending patience, I had a childhood full of rocks in odd shapes (because he never failed to pick one up and give it to me, then ask me how I think it came to look like that), rainbows (we even raced across the hills once to try to reach the end before it disappeared), and vibrant colors he took the time to point out (the blue of the sky, the gold of the wheat field, the purple on the mountain as clouds shadowed the surface). Dad always made time to notice and share nature's splendor. Thanks to him, I realized beauty is all around us, if we open our eyes and hearts to see it. 

A fawn Dad pointed out hiding in the grass I would have completely missed as I walked by.
I could come up with a list of hundreds of things my Dad taught me. There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful for the lessons I've learned (and continue learning) from my dad. I hope he never stops sharing the "good old days" with me. 


Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, USA Today best-selling author Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with relatable characters. When this hopeless romantic isn’t writing or indulging in rich, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

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  1. Shanna, thank you for sharing these beautiful stories about your dad!

    1. Thanks, Magdalena! He's a pretty special guy! :)

  2. Beautiful and very wise. Thanks for sharing, Shanna!

  3. This was so lovely to read, Shanna! Thank you for sharing! :)

  4. Thanks for sharing that. My Dad died in 1959 when I was nine years old. I remember following him as he worked on the farm, he let me try to milk cows, go fishing with him sometimes, go to town with him and wish I could remember all the stories he told me about growing up.

    1. Oh, Brenda! Hugs to you for losing your dad at such a young age. <3 So sorry for your loss.

  5. Your dad was a wise man. My dad died when I was in my early 20s, and I still miss him all these years later.

    1. Sorry you lost your dad so young, Merrillee. I think some people you miss forever. <3

  6. What a lovely post, Shanna! I love hearing about your dad and the things you have learned from him. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Melanie! <3 He's always been a very influential and important person in my life.

  7. Moved me to tears...I think our dads would've been good friends! Sadly, I lost the chance to make new memories with my dad 4 years ago, but miss him every day. Thank goodness for daddys!!