Things I learned from dad
I used to wish my dad had passed on skills like how to play hockey
or fix cars. Now I appreciate his wisdom
No matter how much he tries, no matter how gifted with empathy he is, no
matter how naturally sensitive, a man can never fully understand or
appreciate his father until he has become one himself.
Every son must have
some regret about his father — at least it's a rare son that doesn't. The
litany is well known: He wasn't around enough or wasn't affectionate enough.
He was there but was a domineering tyrant. He didn't support your career
choice. He was too focused on his own career. He left his wife (and more
importantly, your mother). He didn't leave but should have.
When it comes to my father, my biggest regret, the only regret that I
remember, is that he died too soon. He lived a good, long life, dying almost
nine years ago at 83 of prostate cancer. But he was 54 when I was born, and
he never got to meet my son and daughter.
My father, like all fathers (it must be in the paternal DNA), worked hard
to pass down his wisdom to his progeny. At the time, I didn't appreciate it
much. The fathers of my friends all seemed to have good, solid, practical
talents, whether it was teaching their sons how to play hockey, fix cars or
repair their homes.
I must admit that my father did teach me how to swim and ride a bike. We even
threw the ball around a bit when I was a kid, but he didn't teach me many
I still remember turning 12 and hoping for something fun and useful for my
birthday. Instead, my dad came home from work and proudly handed me a collection
of Hemingway short stories, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher
in the Rye.
My father loved books. The walls of many rooms in our home were lined with
bookshelves. History. Philosophy. Poetry. Politics. Novels. Biographies. Short
Stories. Essays. Plays.
I still remember my 12-year-old sense of disappointment when my father handed
me those books, but now, more than 25 years later, they're one of my favourite
My father was well read and had an immense vocabulary, but his daunting grasp
of the English language came with a light touch. He'd use polysyllabic and
obscure words in almost every conversation, but so gently that you could almost
always figure out what he meant.
His erudition had, at least as far as his sons were concerned, a supremely
annoying side. When my younger brother and I were growing up and would go to my
father with a problem, there was never any simple commiseration, no fatherly
"You'll do better next time."
Instead, every mundane childhood problem was addressed through recourse to a
plot situation or character in something or other by Shakespeare, Dante, Homer,
Hemingway or others from the Western canon: "Well, you're not alone in feeling
that way. That's exactly how Odysseus felt when he couldn't get home for 10
As I grew older, I came to realize that despite this annoying habit of
relating almost every personal challenge to some plotline in a book, my father
did offer some practical advice, advice that I remember every time I look at my
son and daughter.
My dad excelled at enjoying himself, no matter where he was or what he was
doing, or what was happening to him. One of his favourite phrases, the closest
thing he had to a motto, was: "Enjoy yourself."
True to form, it operated for him on more than one level. Enjoy who you are,
your talents, your thoughts, your foibles, your strengths, your challenges, your
In my more reductive moments, I sometimes think there are only two lessons in
life: First you learn how to live and then you learn how to die.
If this is true, my father put his learning to the test. As he lay dying in a
lot of pain, he relished the novelty of the experience. He had never died before
and he was darn well going to enjoy every last minute of it.
As for living, my father taught me many lessons. Work at what you like and
then it won't be work. Books and words are important. Do what's right, not what
gives social or economic status or what others expect or what might be in
Tell the truth, not what you think others want to hear. Be curious, like a
child. Take care of your family. Be there for your friends. Whatever you decide
to do, do it as well as you can. Teaching is an honourable calling, whether it's
your profession or not.
Don't complain. Be grateful. Accept praise and criticism with the same grace.
And, most importantly, enjoy yourself.
When I see my young son and daughter laughing, telling jokes, rhyming off
words and making puns, I think of you, Dad. Wherever you are, enjoy yourself.
Daniel Goodwin lives in Saint John.
Commentary in the Globe and Mail by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Thanks Dan, Its wonderful to see a
solitary article that says something positive about a father. Father is becoming
a taboo work, it frequently means a child is never going to have a relationship
with their father because our Family Court Judiciary approach custody and access
issues with preformed conclusions that men are violent raging bulls devoid of
parenting skills while mothers are sacred cows with halo's around their heads.
Sure, that must be true on some very rare occasions. The reality is, across
Canada at most elementary schools, MOST Children do not reside with their
biological father, for many its a two mother's or a step dad. For the children
who grow up never knowing their father, as adults they bitterly resent their
mother's actions in removing their father from their lives.
Canada's birth rate is declining, and a major cause is Parliament's failure to
legislate a mandatory presumption of equal parenting after separation. Still,
our legislation is "gender neutral" but not in practical law where judges,
particularly the extreme underbelly who make "Power orders" or "Sheffield
Orders" that deprive fathers permanently of any right of reply to any allegation
of a vindictive mentally ill mother. You see, female mental illness is a taboo
subject amongst the underbelly of the Judiciary that have a pathological hatred
towards father's and a willingness to Flagrantly Abuse their Judicial POWER to
ensure a child never sees their father again. Its a small percentage of the
Ontario Judiciary that make most of the horrible draconian decisions, and they
are aided and abetted by the Chief Man Hater in the Ontario Court of Appeal,
Justice Feldman who has a PUBLIC RECORD of making more decisions against men
than any other Judge on the Ontario Court of Appeal. These are "indirect"
decisions, carefully loaded to allude to a win while making sure the issue is
buried for ever. www.OttawaMensCentre.com