I often wonder how I can translate these simple things into the American lifestyle. How do I package it up and take it home with me or better yet, share with my children as they live their lives in the fast lane?
It shouldn’t be that difficult. I learned what was really important from my father. I couldn’t think of a better way to package the simple life than to remember what my father taught me and to pass it on to my sons, especially now as we approach Father’s Day and they have children of their own.
My father thinks Will Rogers was a wise man with a great sense of humor and even more common sense. Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn’t like. Daddy prescribes to that saying. There are a lot of people he doesn’t agree with. A lot more he doesn’t want to spend time with…but he always tries to find something he likes about everyone he meets. If he finds something he likes, then no matter how much he disagrees with them, he can still give them a fair shake.
Rule #1: Always treat others as you would like to be treated.
My mother spent her work days bent over a table, lifting heavy fabrics and sewing. As she got older, the job took its toll and she would often come home in pain.
After school, it was my job to watch over my brother and have dinner on the table by the time she and my father got home. After eating very little, my mother would head to the couch, still in pain and miserable…and I was faced with the dishes. I was young and healthy, physically capable. But the same routine of babysitting, homework, dinner, dishes and more homework mentally wore me down.
No matter how busy my father’s day had been, he would take care of phone calls or business than head back to the kitchen to help me. We would discuss movies, politics…life. We’d laugh and finish the dishes in record time. What started as drudgery usually turned into the highlight of my day.
Rule #2: Share the burden. It makes the load lighter.
My dad was a high school athlete. When he played sports, he took me along. I learned everything at his side, golf, bowling, basketball, Ping-Pong even billiards. But my favorite was tennis. My dad and I spent hours on the court and I knew that he could have easily made me run from one end of that court to the other. But he didn’t. He played at my level and as I got better and began to make him run around the court, we celebrated, laughed and played more. Winning was fun but playing was the most fun. Celebrating the good shots and the successes on both sides was more important than stroking egos.
Rule #3: Be a good sport.
In his youth my dad was a barber. We lived in a small, Colorado ranching community. I can still remember waiting for my father, sitting in the big leather chairs and watching the ranchers come in. They would be as brown as peanuts…until they took off their hats for their hair cut. Underneath those hats, they’d be white as sheets.
There was nothing those old cowboys liked better than a good joke or a funny story and my dad always had one ready. I can still hear them cackling, commenting, and more often than not, poking fun at each other.
To my dad, life is full of jokes. He looks for the humor and usually finds it. No matter how angry he gets, or how bad the situation he finds the irony or the twist of fate. He’ll grow quiet, look down, shake his head slightly and smile. Then you know humor is on the way.
Rule #4: Learn to laugh…especially at yourself.
My mother developed Alzheimer’s. As her mind began to shut down, her world narrowed to the four walls of her home...and my father. If she tried to leave the house, she’d have a panic attack. As her disease progressed, if my father left the house, she’d have a panic attack. He became a virtual prisoner in his own home. I often said that it was bad enough to watch my mother’s disease kill her, but even worse to watch it kill my dad.
But that never happened.
When I came to visit, my dad would run down the strange things my mother did and thought. No matter how long or bizarre the list, my father would always finish with the statement, “But we’re getting along just fine.” He’d say my mother’s temperament has mellowed or tell me how they watched old movies or played games with friends. And he made sure they always went to the clubhouse for dancing…no matter how much it hurt his legs. When my mother danced, she looked like she was twenty-years old again.
My mother’s last years were full of laughter, love and peace because my father didn’t dwell on what he couldn’t do. He looked for and found the things he could.
Rule #5: Look for the positive and you’ll find it.
We live in the information age. We’re told to reach our potential, control our own future, analyze what we do so we know ourselves, but whatever we do, don’t self-medicate. We’re supposed to save the planet, go green, treat animals humanely, protect endangered species, but kill the unborn.
Every day gadgets are invented to make our lives better and easier. We have electronic machines that send signals to satellites in orbit to tell us where we are on Earth. We have sensors in our shoes that tell us how far we ran so we will know when we should be tired. We have to start saving for our children’s college funds before they’re born, and put them in sports when they can barely toddle, but we mustn’t live our dreams through them. We must....
Daddy just shakes his head and asks me, “What happened to common sense?”
He’s right. Life is simple. All you really have to do, my sons, is follow the rules.