I recently saw a post online where someone asked people to share an important lesson taught to them by their parents. I read through a variety of responses. Some were funny – how to cheat at poker. Some were practical – save money and pay off debt. A few were sad, where people said their parent(s) taught them nothing because they weren’t around.
It’s funny that as parents we have all the intention in the world to teach our children profound, solid, and life-influencing lessons, but sometimes the lessons that stick are the simplest of all. That was the case with my father.
My father wanted his children to have an education so we would be able to get good jobs and have a secure future when we were older. I remember in particular him drilling me and my sister as we learned our multiplication tables. He was relentless. I remember thinking as a child that it was not that serious. But as I grew up I learned that it really was.
You see, my father never graduated from high school but he was a whiz at math. When I think of the opportunities he could have had but didn’t I eventually understood why he pushed us so hard. He wanted us to be excellent and to reach and achieve every goal that he could not. But even more important he showed us that the pursuit of excellence is rarely easy, convenient, or comfortable.
My father was a hard worker. He worked at a plant that made pet food. Starting out he drove a forklift and eventually moved on to other equipment at the plant. He also worked a swing shift – two weeks on first shift, two weeks on second shift, and two weeks on third. He did that for over twenty-three years. I never could understand how he was able to adjust his sleeping pattern with that crazy schedule, but he did. He took almost every overtime shift that was offered, worked weekends without complaining, and went in at times he could have justifiably stayed home due to bad weather, illness, or family events. And without even trying he taught me the value of hard work and a solid work ethic.
He taught and showed me other things, too. I took care of my children and household the way he taught me. I enjoy sitting outside in the cool of the evening because that’s what he did. I know the importance of having gravy with fried chicken because it somehow seems criminal if there isn’t any. I keep my family close and check on them often because he taught me that was important. I don’t smoke because my father was a smoker and that habit eventually killed him.
I guess you could say by most accounts Joe Gibson, my father, was a simple man and the lessons he taught me and my sibs were quite ordinary. You’d be right. But when you couple those lessons with love, they become extraordinary.