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06-20-16 Quiet Lessons from Dad Image“The quieter y­­ou become, the more you are able to hear.”  – Rumi

In honor of Father’s Day yesterday, I want to share a few of the lessons my dad has taught me.

Although many of the lessons were taught through his words and actions when I was a kid, my dad’s most significant teachings occurred more recently, without any words and with very limited actions.

As a kid, I was pretty sure my dad could do anything.  

The earliest memories I have of Dad are school mornings. He’d come into my room singing a marching song he learned in the army to wake me up to get ready for school.

Then we’d have breakfast, he’d kiss Mom goodbye, shuttle six kids off to school, and work a full day. He’d always be home by dinner, smiling, engaged, and sincerely interested in our days.

Never once did I hear about the stress of his work as a trial attorney or the difficulties of running a firm. His focus was always on his family.

As kids, Dad taught us to: swim, waterski, ride bikes and then eventually to drive a car, use a stick shift, read a map and dock a pontoon boat.

He taught us how to love our spouses and made certain that each of us kids felt that we were his favorite.

In high school and college, I started learning more about who my dad was as a person through his stories of: family trips as a kid, his father’s professional success and subsequent loss, and what it was like to be the youngest of six in the 1940’s, attend school in the 50’s, and lose friends in Vietnam in the 60’s.

I learned that, unbelievably, he never missed a day of school (grade school all the way through law school). I learned how he met my mom and fell for her right away. And I learned that she was his first and only love.

Through his example it was clear that humor breaks tension, softens truth, lowers boundaries, and helps us to connect with others; that a real man goes to church and sings loudly while there – even if out of tune; and that serving others in their time of need fulfills our needs, too.

His example allowed me to see him not just as my good dad, but as a great man.

When my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost three decades ago, his life began to dramatically change.

Stress causes the symptoms of the disease to progress more quickly, so he was soon unable to work trial law; then unable to work in law; then unable to work at all.

He slowly lost the ability to run, then walk, then drive, then speak.

Yet after decades of battling Parkinson’s disease with the assistance of his first and only love, my mom, he maintains his ever-present humor and faith, and continues to teach and model what real masculinity, fatherhood and success look like.  

Today, through his mostly silent days he continues to teach me that:

  • We are much more than the jobs we have, the status we attain, and the wealth we accumulate.
  • The quieter you are, the more you are able to really hear…and the better you understand.
  • God works through all things including massive challenges with kids, professional difficulties, tragic fires and deteriorating health.
  • Pursuing success is important, but eventually the day comes when we realize the most important things in life were already within us.

Today I have a wife. Four children. Deal with professional challenges, pursue personal dreams, long for greater faith, and hope to impact more lives through mine.

And hope to be the example to my little ones as my dad was to me.

At this point in my life I am more confident than ever that my dad can still do anything. His silent love continues to speak louder than his words. [Tweet this] | [Share on Facebook]

This is your day.  Live Inspired.

What lessons have you learned through your father’s life? Please share in the comments below.


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13 replies on “Unspoken Lessons from Dad”

what an emotional read, Peggy!!! Gave me goosebumps. Thank you… And thank you for being the kind of woman who can see even the blessings in a hardworking father who died too soon. Looks like the backbone of your father and motivation for much of your success continues to breathe life into you long after his last house call. Stay on Fire, PR! John

Your blog is an overwhelming tribute to a wonderful man, but most of all it talks about the man he has made of you. What a wonderful person you have become , a direct result of a great family and the backbone of it (your dad) continuing to support you through all the trials. It is amazing that every one of those days are so important in the structuring of a life. My dad died when I was 12, and he was the light of my life. Today, 60 years later, he still gives me the qualities that he imparted in my young years. He was a doctor and back in the 40’s and 50’s doctors were more at the beckon call of their patients, but that made a great memory for me because I spent lots of time in the backseat of a car while my dad went in with his little black bag and calmed the stress and anxiety of the patient who may not have the money or means to go to the hospital, but it didn’t matter to my dad. He was there. Now I feel I am here for my peers and people I am responsible for. THANKS, DAD!

My Dad’s big thing was to be kind to others and home was our safe place. He never wanted unkind words or actions to ever happen at home. If we said we heard that at school, he reminded us that this was unacceptable at home. I miss him everyday. This was only one of his great things that he taught us. Sheila ♡

You had an amazing Dad, Sheila….and I would imagine he feels he had an amazing daughter. Stay on fire and keep making your dad proud of the little girl he raised to be kind and make a difference for those around her! John

I learned a lesson from my Father, Jack Rhoades, that some things are so obvious, we cannot see them or recognize their existence. During one of my final visits with him in St. Mary’s ICU suffering from congestive heart failure, I quietly asked , “Dad, if all your eight children were here in this room right now, is there anything you would like to ask or tell us that you have never had the opportunity to ?” I foolishly expected him to answer with some profound statement such as “Gee, I really loved you kids; I sure enjoyed repairing the cars you banged up; mopping vomit off your bedroom floors after you came home drunk; or it was alway a pleasure driving to your schools and hearing how you were failing in Latin “. Instead, he looked up at the ceiling and murmured, “Let me think about that for a few minutes. When do you need an answer?”
How silly of me.

I watched my Dad in his disabled physical state for the last 35 years of his life and never fully understood how he could be so positive when so many things had been taken from him physically. What I did not even begin to understand was his unwavering faith and the life lessons he was teaching myself and my two brothers. Yesterday was a tough day, Dad has been gone now for five and a half years, and I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call him. Dad, you are the best!

Brother Mike….somehow I get the feeling that you didn’t need to pick up the phone yesterday for your dad to know you were thinking of him and call him…he already knew…and I am also confident he remains proud of his boy…and in love with you. Stay on fire my friend, John

John, My Dad, had dementia, so he like your Dad, lost the ability to communicate, to walk, to do anything for himself. It was so hard for me to see my Dad like that, but he was always positive, he always tried to do whatever we asked him to do, and he NEVER complained about anything. We always wondered what he was thinking, when he could no longer talk to us, but now I am convinced by the look in his eyes, that he was so proud of all of us for taking care of him, like he took care of us when we needed something. He taught me to enjoy life, to always help others when you can. and don’t sweat the small stuff!

Sandy — got emotional just reading this…we were lucky to have the dads we had … at every stage in their lives… Thanks for being an awesome loving child to him. What a gift. John

I learned from my dad how to always be positive and enthusiastic. How to look for ways to help others and to always do the best i can. I learned how to forgive myself and others. I always wanted to be just like my dad.

Matt – Thanks for sharing…and in particular around forgiveness…seems to me it’s impossible to forgive others if we can’t also learn to forgive ourselves…your dad taught you a valuable lesson…thanks for sharing it with us. Stay on fire — John

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