I felt inspired to celebrate my Dad this Father’s Day, 12 June 2022. I mention this as I don’t celebrate the highly commercialised Mother’s Day or Father’s Day since childhood. My Dad completed his earthly journey 26 years ago, but left a legacy of life lessons for me. Anyway, during my zen time, while preparing lunch for my family, I reflected on the life lessons I learned from him. Here are a few of them:
FEAR NO ONE
He always said to me “daai is ook net ‘n mens” (that’s just another human being). I learnt not to diminish myself because of others’ titles and roles. A title or role doesn’t make them superior. We get so caught up in the limits and power of authority, that we give our power away.
IT’S OK TO QUESTION THINGS
Now, this was quite a biggie – given the religious environment, decade and society I grew up in – you know, children were seen and not heard. You never questioned, you just accepted and did as you were told. I always bumped up against things that didn’t resonate with me. But, I had to just do and be as I was told. Dad used to be on the receiving end of all my questions. Questions about religious teachings mostly.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS (WHICH IN MY LANGUAGE MEANS FREEDOM)
One day I dropped the bomb that I wanted to leave home and go seek my fortune. He looked at me, smiled and just said “OK”. I expected some resistance but got none of that. He suggested I checked out my new destination during our planned holiday there and see if I felt the same way about moving. That destination was Cape Town. So we holidayed that December 1992 and on 16 January 1993 I landed in Cape Town. Boy! What a homecoming it has been for me.
DON’T ALLOW ANYONE TO EVER BEAT YOU
This was in the context of relationships/marriage at the time. He always said to me: “if you find yourself in such a situation, you can always come home”. As a young girl, I always believed that this was what Dads had to say and do to keep their children physically safe. I only released the deeper meaning of this life lesson much later in my life. When someone beats you, abuses you or treats you badly, respect yourself enough to walk away from the disrespect.
MAKE THINGS HAPPEN FOR YOURSELF
When we depend on others for our happiness, fulfilment and success, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Figure things out for yourself and follow your own path. The deeper meaning of this life lesson is about following your intuition to create the life you want. When something feels right and resonates on a very deep level for me, I know it’s the cue to follow that path. This explains why he didn’t even blink when I announced that I was ready to leave home.
I loved driving when I was younger (don’t we all?). Dad trusted us with his vehicles and we returned the trust by respecting his rules and vehicles. One weekend we were out with friends and had to go and “pick up something”. You know, there’s always something, somewhere out there that needed to be picked up when you were mobile.
I was driving Dad’s new van and somehow, I still don’t know how, dinged the front left fender quite badly. Something along the lines of “it just jumped in front of me”. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Come Sunday when he got back home, I spilt the beans. He calmly asked, “was anyone hurt?” I looked at him in shock and he said “accidents happen my darling”. The deeper meaning for me was that even though stuff happens, it’s hardly as bad as it seems. This feeds the glass-half-full perspective that I take in my life.
While this didn’t have to be taught to me, it was something that was encouraged. I remember how we devoured my “How the world works” and “100 Questions” books about different topics. He would engage anyone about something and have a conversation to satisfy his inquisitive mind. I admired that about him – being comfortable and confident to start conversations with strangers.
I often wondered what direction he would have gone into had he studied further. We always joked at home that he should’ve been a doctor. He was our resident GP when we had ingrown toenails, boils that needed lancing or any other childhood injury that didn’t require general anaesthesia.
RESPECT FOR OTHERS
This was something that was drilled into us as children. But something that stands out for me about this life lesson was that respect was not conditional. One day while driving with my Dad, my siblings and I started giggling when we saw a man who had a bit too much to drink. Boy, did we get a tongue-lashing that day. When I reflect on the deeper meaning of that lesson, it’s about respecting each person’s journey and not judging anyone for the choices they make.
I honour my Dad for teaching me to believe in myself. Even when I didn’t, he did. While I always remember him and miss his physical presence and infectious laughter, I wanted to honour his memory with this post. Dad, you were such an inspiration and your compassion reached the hearts of many. Your smile and laughter remain a trademark not easily forgotten. While I believe your journey was too short, it took me a long time to accept that all is as it should be.
THE TAKEAWAY – MY MESSAGE TO PARENTS
These life lessons I mentioned above may seem general, but given the context in which I was raised, were huge for me. So, parents teach your children to follow their true essence and be who they truly are. Please, don’t shove social traditions and norms down their throats as the only way to live. Traditions have their place but can also change. Teach them that it’s ok to go against the grain if that’s the path they chose.
Open their eyes to the possibilities outside the social straight jackets you were forced into. But, you have to unfasten your straight jacket first. Teach your children to live by their convictions and intuition and don’t bog them down with shoulds and shouldn’ts. But rather encourage them to develop their passions, use their talents and natural strengths and follow their internal compass.
Honour thy father and mother…and thy children too. What would you want your sons’ and daughters’ reflections to be about the life lessons you taught them? I would love to hear your reflections.