I don’t think I could ever create an all-inclusive list of the lessons my father taught me. Last week, I overheard a conversation between two women. One is planning her wedding and she was talking about her father. The soon-to-be-bride commented that she had her brother as a back-up if her father didn’t show up to walk her down the aisle. Their conversation hurt my heart and made me take a moment to appreciate my father.
In honor of Father’s Day, I’m taking time today to reflect on the man I am blessed to call Dad. He has played an important role in creating the woman I am today. In many ways, he has influenced the work I do, the music I love, and values I hold. These are only a few of the lessons my father taught me.
Respect Your Elders
Growing up, our weekends quite often consisted of helping out my great-grandmothers. Dad and Shannon would often do the yard work while Mom and I would clean house. We even started helping out Grandma Grace’s neighbor, Marion. What kid wants to spend their weekends dusting cat figurines, cleaning windows, and scrubbing floors? I never complained, though. That’s not something neither one of my parents would have accepted.
When an adult needed a chair, I sat on the floor. If an adult asked me to do something, I did it. One of the most important lessons my father taught me was to show respect.
At the time, I may have been miserable wishing I was home playing Nintendo or going to the park with friends. Looking back, I am so blessed for all the time I was able to spend getting to know Grandma Grace and Grandma Rene while they were with us.
Laughter Really is the Best Medicine
Our family has encountered more than its share of struggles. Through the ups and downs, my dad always has his sense of humor well intact. I remember many coffee mornings at Grandpa Tom and Grandma Judy’s and sitting around the kitchen table listening to adults belly laugh over hunting stories, politics, and whatever else became the subject of conversation.
The McCarthy family is known for its pranks, practical jokes, quirky sense of humor, and quick wit. When it came to pranks, my dad was often a ringleader. Like the one Christmas he swapped out the Christmas platter of cheese and sausage with dog treats to see who would fall for it. Of course, someone did. I’m not sure which was better — the person’s reaction when they found out they were eating dog treats, or my dad’s face, red as the Christmas bows from trying to chuckle quietly.
The sense of humor I inherited has been an integral piece of my resilience. Life can be brutal and without my ability to laugh it off, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have. For this and countless other lessons my father taught me, I’m forever grateful.
Life is Short
I remember standing at the graveside of my dad’s mother. Grandma Judy passed away in 1997 after a long and difficult battle with cancer. Mom, Dad, my sisters, and I went to visit the grave when they placed the stone. Dad was looking down at the stone and said, “Before you know it, we’ll be looking back on the ten-year anniversary and everything she has missed. That day will be here before you know it.”
As we left the cemetery, I thought about what he said. His words stayed with me since then. June 21, 2017 will mark twenty years. She died too young and hearing my dad talk about time passing, I have kept this as a reminder to live life. To love life. Because it really does pass quickly.
Dad worked as a truck driver for a wholesale florist. He would be on the road three days each week; longer during holiday seasons. When he wasn’t on the road, he was constantly doing projects around the house. If he wasn’t working around our own house, he was helping someone else with their projects.
I loved when my dad worked from the warehouse on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Occasionally, he would take Shannon and me to work with him. He’d be in the conference room making phone calls, loading his truck, and preparing for his travel day. We both knew better than to get in his way, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the warehouse. The guys dad worked with would sometime put us to work sending boxes down the conveyor belt, or let us go into the coolers and fill buckets with water for the fresh cuts that were coming in.
Dad taught me not only to work hard, but also not to do anything half-assed. If you’re going to do something, do it right.
While my dad worked hard to provide for our family, he made time to spend with us. We had our favorite things to do together. Tuesday nights, you’d find us eating popcorn and watching Rescue 911. Wednesdays, if he was home in time, we’d go to High Roller Skating Center for “buck night”. He took us fishing, ice skating in the winter time, family swim at Memorial in the summer, and we had many family dinners and cookouts.
Dad taught us that “playing hard” was the reward for hard work.
Stand For Something
My dad has incredible taste in music. There are so many songs I hear that take me right back to riding shotgun in his red Ford pickup truck. One song stands out, though. I think of my dad when I hear Aaron Tippin’s song “You’ve Got to Stand for Something.”
My dad is a tell-it-like-it-is guy. He stands his ground. There are so many times I’ll catch myself in a “There is the Mike McCarthy in you” moment and just smile. Dad has always been someone I can go to when this world is too much. He’s been there when I’ve needed him. The boyfriends always knew better than to hurt one of his girls.
Although I am not a parent, I know if I had children, I would hope they would take on the best parts of me. I hope my dad looks upon me and knows I have taken his best and tried to build my life around the values he’s instilled in me.
My borderline-unhealthy love of Christmas, the love of laughter, my love of guitar picking, country music, and tempers we’ve both managed to settle as we’ve grown older. When people have met my dad after knowing me, they usually say, well, now I know where you get it from.
I can’t count how many people I’ve run into who have said, “You’re Mike and Wanda’s daughter.” Then, they proceed to compliment the incredible job my parents did raising us four girls.
It’s true. We’re all pretty darn good kids who won’t take any —-insert another word for crap here— from anyone.
I Love You Dad!
Happy Father’s Day!