I have the good fortune to be an active person by nature. What I mean by this is that, as a general rule, I don’t have to drag myself off the couch and force myself to go outside and do something active. I’m at the other end of that spectrum - on days that I cannot go out and engage outside I feel a little trapped and start to get stir crazy.
I owe that good fortune to my father, Jim Wade.
He taught me so many things, and began those lessons early.
He taught me to throw and catch a baseball and swing a bat. I was in little league, first in Compton and then in Mendota. I continued on to senior league, and even played a little in High School. When it was needed he stepped up and coached me and my friends.
He showed me how to drive a nail and solder a pipe. I learned how to make a thing level or plumb, the difference between the two, and why these things are important. What’s more, he showed me what men could accomplish with their hands with a little time and effort and expertise; showed me by example time and again.
He taught me how to deal with a bully and throw a punch, and how to give fair warning before doing so. I said above that the lessons began early, and this was taught to me at five years of age. What’s more it was extremely effective (in a way that would surely be significantly problematic in the schools of today), and also had the effect of teaching me that, once employed, it was not a skill that had to be used often.
Though he taught me to defend myself, he also taught me never to raise my hands against women. This lesson was not just abstract - it was hands on, swift, and immediate, and delivered with far more care and kindness than the brash teenager who received it deserved.
He taught me to operate machinery of so very many types - from go-karts to minibikes to motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats, cars, and trucks. He taught me to drive a stick and how to turn into a skid. He taught me to back up a trailer - and tho I’m still working on that one, the fault there is on the student and not the teacher.
He taught me how to bait a hook and cast, and taught me the patience of waiting for a fish to bite. With him I learned the absolute joy of a shore lunch made from the incredibly fresh fish you’ve just caught. He later taught my child the very same skills.
I learned how to swing a driver and operate a putter at his hand. When I was very small he cut down an old set of clubs and re-affixed handles to them so they’d be the proper size for a young learner.
He taught me to ride a bike, and before that showed me the joy of riding by taking me out on his bike with him. He did this by hand-making a wooden seat designed to sit and balance on the top bar of the bike. It was an implement that would surely terrify new parents today, but it spawned a love of cycling that carries through to this day.
And there’s so much more that I could list here. Some of these lessons I use regularly and routinely, like cycling and driving, while others are much more occasional. But I value them all, and so many of them taught me more than the skills inherent, but also lessons about winning, losing, self-esteem, taking a fall - about life.
And in so many ways, all of this taught me perhaps the most important lesson of all - how to be a father. I’ve tried to pass those lessons along as best I can with my own child, and can only hope to have done half as well.
Thanks Dad - and Happy Father’s Day!