My dad taught me to lean in

Reminiscence springs on me at the oddest moments. Just the other day I was caught off guard by a sudden memory of my dad when I spotted a man leaning on his front rail. My dad used to lean. Actually, he was lean. I guess you could say he was a lean leaner.

I love my dearly departed dad but my messy head rarely creates the space to think about him or what he meant to me. When I am visited by memories if him, it’s usually because mom is up to her dementia antics and I feel like screaming and dropping her at the side of a lonely road. It’s at those moments when I can hear Dad say, “Don’t be upset. She’s just worried/tired/not feeling well.” I hear the words and I think “What would dad do?”

The answer is, lean in and do the right thing. Don’t do the easy thing or the comfortable thing. Do the right thing.

My dad had a strong sense of justice and a low threshold for bullshit. He had boundaries. My sister and I knew what they were without being able to articulate them, and we rarely crossed them. Dad was calm and consistent. We could count on him to lean in and do the right thing every time, or at least most of the time.

A problem solver, that’s how I remember Dad. When he saw something that needed fixing he fixed it. He always made a plan first — a sensible, practical plan. He always had some new invention or innovation on the go in his shop.

Dad had integrity. At his funeral, the minister said that dad was the one person he knew who who would never spread gossip. For a small town whose only news was gossip that is huge. Keep your mouth shut and your mind open and do the right thing.

Dad was a man with a moral compass and the courage to stand his ground.

Slow to anger.

Quick to laugh.

A story teller.

A listener.

A leader.

Dad was not perfect. He worked too much, spoke too little to my mom, my sister and I, and revealed his heart only under exceptional circumstances. Just do the right thing and don’t be dramatic about it. That was my dad.

I challenge you to find even one man who could shine a candle to my dad. I’ve tried. I’ve without knowing I’ve been trying.

I sometimes wonder how life would have been different if my dad had lived beyond 48 years of age. I like to believe that our relationship would have deepened and that a stronger bond would have been forged between us. I think he would have been overjoyed to have three grandsons to ride around the farm with him on the riding mower.

I imagine the boys being shaped and molded by him, learning from him how to do the right thing, and taking on his affectations until one day I would walk into Mom’s kitchen and see them all standing there talking, laughing, and leaning.

My beautiful dad.

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