by C.J. Darlington
Our Father's Wisdom : 19 Authors Share
What Their Dad Taught Them They'll Never Forget
In today's society, sometimes dads get lost in the shuffle. Or maybe a father makes the news for being less than one. But there are still many good men out there who are examples for their children. 19 authors share the best piece of wisdom their father shared with them, and we think you'll agree---dads are pretty special fellows!
Jerry Jenkins (The Brotherhood, Left Behind series):
When I was a late teenager, I was almost taken in by a pyramid marketing scheme that was, naturally, “can’t miss.” The salesman told me how much money I could make in a short time if I could just sign up a small percentage of my friends and family. They would buy a gyroscope gadget to add to their cars to keep them from fishtailing, and they would also become salesmen too.
Visions of wealth and freedom danced in my head. I started by pitching my dad. He seemed amused. The idea sounded intriguing, but he wanted to meet the salesman.
I was certain Dad would be persuaded, as I had been. But when the salesman tried to close the deal, Dad said, “No, thanks. I drive carefully and can’t recall ever fishtailing.”
“But in bad weather---”
“I drive slower.”
“But wouldn’t you like to make $200,000 a year?”
“I’m not motivated by great amounts of money.”
I’ve never, before or since, seen a salesman speechless. Where does one go from there?
When he finally found his voice, the man said, “What does motivate you?”
“Doing the best I can do at whatever I have been assigned. That’s reward enough.”
I’ve remembered that bit of wisdom for only about 45 years.
Kathy Tyers (The Firebird series):
When I was in my teens, my dad liked to interrupt perfectly good curl-up-with-a-book weekends to send my sister and me out to work in the yard. Wearing an old t-shirt and holey blue denims, he directed the weeding, inspected the results, and insisted it good for us—that gardening was a pleasure we’d better learn to love. I hated those hours on my knees. I spent most of that time imagining I was somewhere else. I could have been indoors re-reading Lord of the Rings! But … grown up with an acre in the country, I planted an orchard and a big vegetable garden. The hours I spent kneeling and pounding quackgrass roots out of dirt clods were peaceful and satisfying. Now, back in town, half my back yard is a vegetable plot. And my sister earned a master’s degree in horticulture. I spend most of my time in my head, as a writer. Our dad was right: working the bit of earth that’s entrusted to us helps us stay balanced.
Noel Hynd (Hostage in Havana):
There are more things that I learned from my father than I can ever recount, but the ability to write was foremost, combined with a certain honest cynicism about the world around us. Allow me to digress into some personal recollections. After all, I followed him into the family trade: writing.
My father, Alan Hynd, never graduated from high school but found his way onto the staff as a reporter for The Boston Post around 1921. Born in 1903, the only son of Scottish immigrants, my father was frequently assigned to police desks and began a career writing true crime stories.
The career path later led him to other newspapers in New York and Philadelphia as well as Trenton, N.J. He worked on those papers through the 1920’s and 1930’s, which were fascinating times in American history. Most all of his newspapers are long gone now and, sadly, so is he. He died suddenly in January 1974.
But during his lifetime, my father saw close up the seamy underside of American life in the early and middle of the Twentieth Century. And he wrote about it, first for the newspapers, then later for the American true crime magazines that flourished in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, then finally for the “big” magazines of the time, like True, The Reader’s Digest and The Saturday Evening Post.
The subject matter was not without its drawbacks. Covering the Lindberg kidnapping in the 1930’s, my father had his first generation American idealism forever tarnished by the legal railroading of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, whom he was convinced was only a bit player --- if that --- in a much bigger kidnapping conspiracy. He wrote about what he saw at the trial, the inconsistency and questionable nature of the evidence, the incompetence of the defense attorney and the ulterior motivations of everyone to get the case “finished” as quickly as possible. As a reward for his straightforward reporting, my father was removed from the case by his paper.
At other times during that era, he reported authoritatively on the famous outlaws of the era, notably Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Ma Barker and Machine Gun Kelly. During World War Two, the times treated him well. He had two best sellers in 1943, Passport to Treason and Betrayal from the East. From time to time, he would receive unsolicited letters of praise from J. Edgar Hoover. He was always contemptuous of Hoover and privately referred to him as “a fraud who liked to come in and have his picture taken after the agents had done all the work.”
On many occasions, he gave some people things they didn’t want to read. After presenting all the facts about a prominent murder case in the Bahamas in the late 1940’s, he was poisoned by representatives of a powerful and uncharged suggested perpetrator. The would-be killers may or may not have broken into our family home in Fairfield, Connecticut to plant poison in 1951. The assignment was nearly successful. I can remember the trips to the hospital, shrouded in silence and mystery, when I was about 5 years old.
At another time, some mobsters just plain decided they didn’t like him, so they kidnapped him and held him --- at gunpoint and for ransom --- in a second floor room at the Hotel Dixie on Times Square. His magazine, Official Detective I think it was, delivered $300 cash. Unmarked bills in an envelope, just like in the movies. As I said, interesting times.
What conclusion did I draw from these events as I grew up? It was, I decided, much safer to write fiction than cover true crime. But I definitely wanted to write.
Over the course of fifty years, Alan Hynd covered more than a thousand police cases: domestic murderers, swindlers, bank robbers, serial killers, extortionists, embezzlers, con men. From time to time I personally met some of the people he wrote about. They were, to say the least, memorable. One goon gave me instructions on how to sneak up behind someone with a blackjack and bob someone over the head with maximum effectiveness. Another showed me how to deal cards from the bottom of the deck and what to listen for if someone was doing that. My mother was thrilled.
My father wrote with a smile, a wink in his eye and a sense of the macabre aspects of human motivation. I’ve tried to do the same. After all, as mentioned, I went into the family business.
Culver City, CA
Noel Hynd is the author of many hugely successful spy and espionage thrillers, including Conspiracy in Kiev, Hostage in Havana and Flowers From Berlin. A collection of Alan Hynd’s true crime stories, Brutes, Beasts and Human Fiends, is also available on Amazon in print and on Kindle.
Stewart (Broken Wings, Chasing Lilacs):
Never give up. That may be the hallmark of Winston Churchill, but my dad had his own version which I learned in my junior year of nursing school. I’d became very disheartened with my long hours of study and the difficult schedule I had that semester. I’d had a particularly rough day when I arrived at my apartment to find that my dad had done something he’d never done before—he wrote me a letter. Not the usual “take heart, you can do it” kind of prose, but a humorous, poignant tale of “You think you’ve got troubles, let me tell you what happened to me.” He chronicled the demise of his dog Rover (he named all his dogs Rover), a recent trade of two guineas for a pea fowl which he penned with the turkeys in hopes of obtaining a flock of peaurkeys, the neighbor’s dogs raiding his henhouse and killing seventeen chickens. On page six he got around to telling me to “keep your nose clean and to the grindstone,” but by then I had laughed and cried myself into a determination to stick it out.
No matter what
life has thrown at me since that time, I’ve never
forgotten that letter. Any time I get down trodden or too full of myself,
I sigh and remember to keep my nose clean and to the grindstone. Thanks,
Jeanette Windle (Freedom's Stand, Veiled Freedom):
A piece of advice that stuck: "Whether frogs, snakes or iridescent plant life, the brighter and shinier the critter, the more poisonous." That advice first arose at age 6, when my father found my twin and I and younger sister playing with a bright-red 'baby snake' on the concrete floor of our living-room in the Colombian jungle zone where my parents served as missionaries. Turned out our plaything was a full-grown and deadly poisonous coral snake. In later years, I always associated Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" with that childhood lesson. (Among many others: "Always sit behind a taxi driver when traveling alone, because they can't pull a gun on you from that position"; "Shake out your shoes, clothes and bedding for scorpions and other creepy-crawlies before climbing in", "If lost in the jungle, find water and head downstream; a small stream will always lead to a larger, and sooner or later you will find human habitation".
Windsor (Thief, Healer):
“You Can Do It!” That would be the message my dad left for me by his example. With no more than a ninth grade education, he started a business in a barn, sharing it with race horses. He picked up industrial electric motors and apparatus during the day and repaired them at night with mom's help. That was over fifty years ago and though he has passed on, their business still survives, employing about forty people in a building that eight barns would fit in. I recall one incident where he out-engineered the high tech engineers flown in to our little country town from Chicago to fix an electro-magnetic lift that still unloads the famous Perdue chickens from trucks to this day. What he lacked in education he more than made up with in common sense and, I think, a mechanical instinct.
Just because I was a girl didn't mean that I couldn't learn how to wire a receptacle or work in the shop insulating rebuilt motors and winding new coils for them. If something needed doing around the house, Dad could fix it. This do-it-yourself ethic was a matter of necessity, but it has served me well along with his business principles--honesty, hard work, charity and thanksgiving for God's blessings.
He saw that I got the education he did not. And never once did he
ever say, you can't. Not even when I was up to my neck in writing rejections.
He never got to see me published, but I believe he knows. I did it,
Jim Stovall (The Ultimate Journey):
My father taught me in both word and deed that I was responsible for doing the best I could in whatever I choose to do. He showed me that winning is not always critical, but doing your best is an absolute priority. Then, in my teenage years, I was diagnosed with a disease that would result in my blindness. The doctor told my parents and me "You are never going to be normal." Without hesitation my father responded, "My son understands that being normal is nothing worth aspiring to." My dad just retired this month after working for the same ministry for over 56 years. His words spoke volumes, but his deeds are far more powerful.
Lessman (A Hope Undaunted):
Obedience = Blessing. Something I learned from my father … but, uh, not in the usual way. You see, Daddy kicked me out of the house when I was 21 and I was bitter … until I became a Christian at 23. God’s first directive? Love your father. “But I can’t,” I argued, “he physically and emotionally abused me, and I hate him.” “Love him,” came God’s response. Groan. “But how?” I whined, “when I don’t feel any love for him?” “Just do it, Julie,” God persisted, “and I’ll put the feeling there.”
All righty then. So I did the only thing I knew to do—I repented of my bitterness and prayed for my widowed father diligently. And then I put feet to those prayers by taking homemade beef stew (his favorite) once a week and watching TV for an entire evening without talking except for commercials. When I left each night, I would hug him and tell him I loved him, but he would never say he loved me nor hug me back.
Repentance-Prayer-Action. I was relentless … until lo and behold, I found myself looking forward to our evenings even if it meant watching The Untouchables in total silence. A word here, a smile there, and pretty soon the “untouchable” became touchable. “Good night, Daddy, I love you,” I said months later with my usual hug. “Good night, Julie,” he whispered, his arms slow and awkward as they inched around to hug me back. “I love you too.”
Obedience = Blessing. One lesson. Two fathers. Infinite blessings.
Pierce (Amy Inspired, Feeling for Bones):
Two things come to mind most readily: 1.) live off 70% of what you earn and 2.) never forget to floss.
I was fifteen when my dad helped me open my first bank account. Shortly after, he gave me a slim book entitled The Richest Man in Babylon, a collection of parables about finance of which I distinctly remember one idea, that the secret to wealth is to live off less than what you earn. 10% should always be invested, 10% given back to society (in our case, to the church) and 10% put away as treasure for the future. On one hand, this was my first exposure to the art of money management, but more importantly it was the groundwork for a counter-intuitive worldview: that I am not just the owner of things but a steward of gifts, material and immaterial, which I am to invest wisely. That it is not about what I have but what I have been given – and about what I give in return.
Today, it doesn’t matter if I’m considering the purchase of
a wedding dress or a car loan, I still hear my father’s sound financial
advice whenever I am tempted to spend money on something this world has convinced
me I need. More importantly, I am reminded of the Father’s admonishment
to owe no debt except that of love to my neighbor.
Lee (Forbidden w/ Ted Dekker, Demon: A Memoir):
My father is first-generation Korean. What I learned from and through him is a very high respect for teachers, elders and cultural tradition. For showing humility even as we work hard to achieve higher and higher goals. He also taught me when to quietly push against some of the strictures of tradition by encouraging my independence, education and strength as a woman.
My father is the kind of man you see standing in the corner of a room, watching everyone quietly. He doesn't like to talk on the phone or really talk much at all, but he's never had to. Actions speak louder than words.
Growing up we didn't have a lot of money. My folks were blue collar types and so vacations were spent doing what we could afford, which was mostly camping. We owned a camper which probably took my parents years and years to save for. We dragged that thing to the Poconos many a weekend.
One day while at home I noticed a man moving around in that camper which was parked out back near our detached garage. Alarmed, I ran to my father and told him someone broke in. My father didn't look at all surprised and softly told me to forget it.
"Aren't you going to call the police?" I wanted to know.
He sighed and said, "No. If he's living there, he must really need to."
The man stayed there for weeks, and as far as I know my father never spoke to him. He didn't like to embarrass people.
The next year a preacher from a nearby church knocked on our door and told my father a family in his parish lost their house to a fire and asked if he could buy the camper. My father told him he wouldn't take any money for it, it was there's.
I've learned a lot from my father but what touched me the most and what
I've tried to always remember is that a person doesn't have to have a
lot to be generous.
Elliott (Fairer than the Morning):
My father is a man of principle, above all. He believes in the old-fashioned value of keeping his word, no matter how difficult his path becomes as a result. If he says he will do something, you can count on him, in matters large and small. As I grew up, it was surprising to me to discover that not everyone believes in such honor or consistency when it comes to having a ‘word’ and taking one’s commitments seriously. But my father also taught me that being a woman of my word is an issue between me and God, and has nothing to do with the behavior of others. At the end of each day, I must face myself in the mirror, and I could not respect myself if I deliberately broke my word. My father gave me a great gift by teaching me integrity through his example.
My father’s commitment to honor influenced my portrayal of Samuel
Miller, the father figure in my novel Fairer than Morning. Like my
father, Mr. Miller teaches his children lasting lessons through his
own upright conduct. The need for a father’s positive influence
is crucial in the novel, just as it is for children in today’s
C.S. Lakin (The Map Across Time, Someone to Blame):
If you were raised by a loving father, give thanks. Tell him how much you love him, and realize he is precious. I wish I had a father I could say those things to. You, in essence, have a "father along" as you journey farther along life's path, which is a sweet gift. Now, at this time in my life, I feel the absence of a father more than I did as a child. I do believe I will see my real father in the next world, as I understand he accepted Jesus right before he died of leukemia, which in itself is an amazing story (for a very devout Jew in hospice in a Catholic hospital). I learned a lot through this exploration of fathers and God as Father. I hope that the deep, troubled feelings my characters process as they deal with their fathers or lack thereof will bring encouragement, enlightenment, and gratitude for the best father in the universe--our Creator and Father of the celestial lights.
Suzanne Woods Fisher (Lancaster County Secrets series):
10 Things I Learned from Dad
My dad is in late stages Alzheimer's Disease now and doesn't recognize any family members. He doesn't know us... but we know him! AD is a terribly difficult experience--hard on the whole family. But as the saying goes, "As long as you're breathin', God has a reason." Happy memories of Dad, like those listed below, are particularly sweet.
1) Celebrate the first day of every month. Rabbit. Rabbit. Rabbit.
2) Live within your means.
3) Cars are only a mode of transportation. They should not represent a person’s self-identity.
4) Tell the truth and you don't have to remember what you said or who you said it to.
5) Get up in the morning and exercise right away before your body vetos it!
6) Hard work pays off.
7) A girl should know how to put air in her car tires.
8) Nothing in life is free.
9) Cultivate your sense of humor.
10) If all else fails, go to the bathroom and go to bed.
Williford (Bride to a Distant Star):
“What My Father Taught Me that I’ll Never Forget”
of my most vivid images of my dad (still, and always, “Daddy”)
is of the family vacation when we were spending the night at a motel
with a pool and a wonderful added attraction: a slide! Probably only
around eight years old, I’d never been down a slide that emptied
into a pool, and I was timid about giving this slick plastic one a
try. But Daddy stood next to it, gazing up at me, and held up “one
finger” that I could grab onto as I pushed off from the top and
began the scary and thrilling ride that ended with a splash. I suppose
I made at least a dozen trips down, but each and every time I reached
for that one reassuring, courage-boosting finger of my dad’s.
Faced my fear. Slid down. And dropped into the water.
That sweet memory is merely a symbol of what Daddy taught and demonstrated to me throughout my life:
1. He’d always be there for me.
2. However, he wouldn’t do for me what I needed to do.
3. He would always help by encouraging, supporting, cheering.
4. He loved me enough to free me, and to give me a push into a multitude of life adventures that called for courage.
5. Each of these life lessons also directly translated to my understanding of God, and his role in my life.
I close my eyes, and I see my dad beside that slide again. He’s smiling up at me, urging me on, infusing me with trust and courage and faith—then, through the years, and today.
Thank you, Daddy. I love you.
Jackson (Who Do I Lean On?, Yada Yada Prayer Group:
“What My Father Taught Me That I'll Never Forget”
"Use your minutes!" That was my father's motto as a high
school principal. Kids ("kids?") in my graduating class still
joke about Mr. Thiessen telling them (often) to "use your minutes." By
that he meant, take advantage of your study hall time to get a head
start on your homework. If you're waiting in line, have a book along
to read. If the teacher is late getting to class, instead of goofing
off and talking, use those minutes to start your homework from another
class. He often told me that if I "use my minutes," I might
have most of my homework done by the time school was out and I could
have a free evening. My father, Isaac Thiessen, lived what he preached,
" using his minutes" to do something productive, whether it was memorizing Scripture while driving the car or cutting apples for apple pie while watching the news. Imagine my delight when I read his college journal after he died and found: "Blessed is the man who hustles while he waits."
Stennett (Homemade Haunting):
"What did your father teach you that you'll never forget?" I'm having a hard time answering this. I can't think of only one life-altering nugget of advice that towers above all others. So, instead, I'm going to list a few things he taught me that showed me how to be a better man, father, and human being:
1) Invest in other people. Invite them into your home, be kind to them, and listen. Don't expect anything in return.
2) Try every waterslide life has to offer. The scarier they look the better.
3) Action Movies are real cinema.
4) Quality time with your kids is about shutting everything else off and just spending time with your kids. It doesn't really matter what you do. Some of the most meaningful conversations of my life happened while playing The Legend of Zelda.
5) Laugh. Tell jokes and make other people laugh and laugh when someone tells a joke of their own.
6) Read. Well, he didn't teach me to read but he taught me to love books. His favorites were the Bible and anything CS Lewis.
So there are six things dad taught me. That's a weird number for a list. But my dad also taught me to say what I need to say and then move on. So I'll follow that advice.
Perry (Unforgettable, Tea for Two):
One of my first memories of Dad was his waking me and the sibs for Saturday morning pancakes by enveloping our tiny pajama’d backsides in his big palms and shaking us like jelly. Giggle City. We knew were loved.
Several years later, when I choked on a candy (a Lifesaver, ironically), his swift, serious reaction saved me, scared me, and made me feel protected.
When I made bad decisions as a teen (breaking curfew time and again) and as a young woman (I don’t even want to start that list), his disappointment was clear. I felt accountable.
But when my marriage failed, he supported me in so many ways. I knew I was valued. He picked up my daughter from daycare so I could work, so I could attend college, so I could get back on my feet. Because of him I learned nothing is impossible.
This Father’s Day I’ll visit Dad. He doesn’t cook anymore, so I’ll bring the meal. I’ll bring my love. And I’ll express my gratitude, because my Dad spent the last fifty-plus years teaching me that I’m loved, protected, accountable, and valued. He taught me that, with God, nothing is impossible.
Mason (The Violet Flash):
The most unforgettable thing my father taught me is summarized in one of his favorite sayings: “Wait for the break.”
As a financial executive, he experienced a lot of pressure. Early in his career he ran into a difficult problem that seemed to require an urgent solution. Full of anxiety, he consulted his boss. It was Friday afternoon, and all the other man could talk about was his upcoming golf tournament. Finally, picking up his brief case, he headed for the door. At the last minute he paused to say, “Oh—and about that little problem you’re having: Just wait for the break.”
My father fretted for the whole weekend, but on Monday morning, sure enough, the break came and the issue was easily resolved. Always after that, whenever I was worried about something, my father would say, “Just wait for the break.” Though he was not a Christian, it was an early lesson for me in waiting on the Lord.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.