Tell Me About That One: I Can Still Hear Him Say.

f you follow my work at all, you probably already know the influence my dad has had on my life.  I quote him constantly. He was a quiet man of few spoken words, but he contained a wealth of wisdom and insight in his short, sturdy frame. So it only made sense to dedicate a section to him in Use Fewer Words.

It’s titled, “I Can Still Hear Him Say.” Because I can clearly imagine him saying those very words in a certain situation.

My all time favorite saying of his was they way he described how things are not always as they first appear. Don’t be fooled by appearances, he would say. Everything is not as it seems.  He would say

All that glitters 
Is not gold
All that titters
Is not tit.

I can also hear her (my mom) say to dad, “Oh Jack, don’t use that kind of language with him.!” But her scolding never worked, and his phrase became firmly entrenched in the family vernacular. When I got to the age where I started noticing girls, he would remind me of this wisdom, but made sure mom never heard him.

As I type a thought and post it, I never have a sense of what will connect or resonate with my reader.  This next saying of his was just that.  But on the day that I published it on Instagram, it was one that garnered the most unexpected comments.

The context is about committing to a task.  I was not required to play sports in school, but I was given permission to go out for a team if I wanted to. I never felt compelled.  I wanted to quit Little League Baseball in 5th grade. I was not a very good athlete and was always afraid of getting hit with a pitch.  He advised me in this way:

I can still hear him say
If you stop
Because you’re tired
That's one thing
But if you stop 
Because you're scared
That requires a conversation

It was his way of saying the choice is mine. I think he could tell I didn’t like playing baseball, but he didn’t want to allow me an easy out if it was fear that needed to be addressed.

This is the importance of parenting. I am learning to improve in this area and my kids are adults now. 

The word attunement. Dr. Dan Siegel says attunement is when we allow our own internal state to shift and come to resonate with the inner world of another. Much like turning the dial on the radio. When the receiver comes in alignment with the transmitting signal, the message can be heard clearly.

Children are like that. They emit a signal that a wise parent needs to attune with and pick up. A parent who does this can get close enough to see what needs to be addressed.  I’m so glad I wasn’t forced to keep playing baseball, but I’m equally glad to have a dad who could see me and challenge me when fear wanted to make me run away.

Another quality I admire about my dad’s wisdom was his thoughtful patience. He was very slow to speak, which was frustrating at times. He hated talking on the phone and our conversations were a minute or two tops, then he would hand the receiver to mom and she would take over.

He had a story from the days when he and mom were first married in the 1950’s. He liked his father-in-law and described him as “the best christian man I ever met.” One day, dad found out that someone was stealing chickens at night, so he said AR, why don’t I stay up and watch to see who’s stealing your chickens.  His father in law replied, “Times are hard, Jack, that man probably needs that chicken to feed his family, but is too proud to ask. I’ll let it slide. It will come back to me eventually.”

It was this kind of influence that prompted this idea:

I can still hear him say
Allow the people
You dislike
To make you more curious
Than angry

I didn’t know my maternal grandfather. He died when I was less than six month old.  I only know him through stories like this from my dad. It’s an honor to see how he influenced my dad, who in turn, influenced me, and hopefully me to the next generation.

This is a big reason why I am taking time to chronicle my stories in written and audio form.  My dad is gone, but I still have his oral tradition and I don’t want that to disappear when I pass on.

When my sister and I started going through mom’s house and possessions, I gave myself a general rule to follow in knowing what to keep and what to throw away. If I could not invite someone into the story and make it a shared memory, I would toss it.  There were lots of trinkets and items that had no connection to anyone other than me. I kept a few of those things, like the quilts and hand crocheted afghan. But the salt and pepper shakers needed to go to a new home as did the old Sears catalogs and her collection of old newspapers about the first man on the moon.

Thanks for listening to these stories.  I hope you are figuring out a way to preserve your  memories by passing them on to those around you.

I’ll see you next time.