We were not mountain people so while we knew bears were around, we didn't see them often. We were not experts on bear sizes. The bear intrigued him so that he told me this same story every single time we drove past that particular spot on the interstate. We drove past that particular spot many times during the last few years of his life. He told the story every single time.
If you're lucky enough to have a dad that you speak to, this is likely to happen to you if you both live long enough. Perhaps it's not a bear or even an animal but there will be a story (or many stories) your dad will tell you over and over again like it's the first time. It may annoy you and you may even interrupt him and tell him that he's already shared this story. What you may not know is that proper child etiquette states that you should listen to the telling of the story, never letting on that you have heard it before. You should analyze the story for hidden meaning and you should commit the story to memory.
These days, I'm a dad. I'm not saying I have children, y'all know that. You don't exactly become a dad when you father a child and it enters the world. It takes experience to become a dad. This is not something I pretend to understand completely so you'll just have to trust me on this but what I can tell you is that at some point after I had kids running around my house, I started to understand that dads have a secret agenda of things to take care of in the household. This is not just the list of rules and having the job of scolding kids who don't follow those rules. It's not just letting the kids eat cake and ice cream for every meal when the mom isn't at home. It's not just tossing or kicking the ball outside and it's not just the telling of cheesy jokes. The secret role of the dad is to constantly remind the children who they are.
One of the many things They don't tell you when you become a parent is that kids need to be constantly told who they are. Most of us dads have tried over recent years to give our kids things and opportunities because we think that makes them happy and productive citizens. I might argue that this miscalculation on the part of dads everywhere has created a generation or two of children who have all the gadgets and play all the sports but have no idea who they are. One wouldn't have to try very hard to find multiple applications to that statement. Just think about this one train of thought...what if all dads constantly reminded their daughters that they were of high value and that they were deserving of love and respect and that they were expected to contribute in an important way to their community? Can you imagine the army of intelligent, driven and powerful women we would have in position to help fix this planet? And if this is not currently happening, guess who is to blame guys? This is a dad job and it can't be pawned off on an older child or even a mom. Mom's have this whole other encyclopedia of secret agendas they have to deal with. They can't do our job too.
I think about the stories my dad told me. Some he told over and over again. Some he only told once. Some of the most important stories were not even stories at all. They were silent actions. Choices made. Sometimes just a look. And with my dad, sometimes it was just a joke. A joke that sits with you years after it was spoken. A joke that wasn't a joke at all, it was a statement reminding you who you were.
I came into this parent thing kicking and screaming. I was scared. Kids bring responsibilities and you have to open up your heart and allow yourself to love new people. You have to then turn those people over to the world and allow them to run free in it. You have to feel and you have to be willing to be hurt and I didn't want to sign up for that. Lucky for me, G did. It took her 11 years to wear me down and it's a well known family legend that when she told me she was pregnant, my first words were not family friendly. But now...
I've got these two wonderful little humans and I'm having a blast with them. For every difficult thing about parenting there are 20 adorable giggles and 53 goofy faces. For every emotion I'm forced to feel there are 431 fart jokes and 39 hugs. I'm gonna call that balance.
But for every fun thing, there's also a task on the secret agenda. I have to find a thousand ways each week to tell these kids who they are.
My dad told me stories about learning to laugh during difficult times. He told me stories about being observant and applying what you learn. He told me stories about great mysteries and told me that you can never figure everything out. He told me stories about finding ways to help other people. There was mischief, adventure, some questionable language and overcoming obstacles. He was always telling me who I was long before I had a clue.
Maybe your dad was/is telling you something other than a story.
Because it's Father's Day, here's a link to another time I wrote about my dad: http://hermitshead.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-eat-elephant.html