Reaching the Other Shore: My Father’s Wisdom For Me

For a long time, my dad was “on the water”. He worked for the Coast Guard for just about 40 years, and now works part-time for them in his retirement. Having joined at 17, this is the only corporation he’s ever worked for, and the one that has defined his work ethic, and as a result, mine.

I never joined the Coast Guard. My sister did, and she fits in well. But I take great pride in telling people that my dad works for the Coast Guard, and a lot of my childhood was defined by the fact that my dad was always sailing. From Great Lake to Great Lake, he spent a lot of time looking for that other horizon, waiting for the shore that would bring him back to his family. In fact, I imagine him still, in his cabin with the cool porthole, in that fitted wooden bed at night, seeing nothing but water – waiting to reach that other shore.

And that ethic of working for what you want – of waiting for the reward – is what I can say my dad’s taught me.

My dad is the steadiest guy you’ll probably ever meet. There are times when I don’t think anything rattles him. Once, when I’d been in my first car accident, I called home in tears, terrified that our leased car being wrecked would somehow land us in deep trouble. And my mother answered the phone and told me that my dad couldn’t talk right now, but that he’d call me back in a few minutes. I was sure he’d call back, angry, asking me how I could be so careless. I expected him to yell at me. I expected him to never let me drive again.

Instead, he called back, his voice totally calm, and asked me if I was all right. When I stammered, catastrophizing as I always do, that I was worried that the car dealership would somehow ding us for this accident, he laughed a little and said, “You didn’t answer my question. Are YOU all right?”

That’s my dad. The calm point in my stormy life – and it has been a stormy life. The one who taught me to take a breath, centre myself, and go forward with calmness instead of charging ahead and making a mess of things, as I tend to do.

Without my father, I would not be a feminist. He’s taught me to be fair to all. Even when I think I’m in the right, my dad reminds me to take a step back, consider all options, and go forward remembering that we don’t walk in each other’s shoes. Reactions might be split-second, but the way you deal with a situation is the path you’re choosing to take, and it lasts forever. Don’t burn bridges. Don’t intentionally hurt anyone. Look, listen, think, and then act.

My dad is a quiet and patient man. We share a love of historical fiction. He often comes to my apartment, rifling through my bookshelf, and takes another book that my mom and sister would consider “boring” to read. I like to talk to him about his job, about his interests. He has a steady, quiet way of answering questions. Despite my absolute duncery at mathematics, physics, and any engineering concepts, it was my dad who found a way to explain them in a way that I could understand, ensuring that I at least passed my basic high school courses. He may not understand how to read music or what I mean by poetry, but he understands the feeling behind it. He understands the drive to create.

My dad can fix anything. He takes great pride in building, carpentry, gardening, and mechanics. I get my fix-it attitude from him – and I have innovatively strung up makeshift solutions to fix my fan, to hang awkward things on the wall, and to reuse items for a new purpose.

However, the best thing my dad has taught me is that you must work hard for whatever you want. I work three jobs, happily, because I know this to be true. Nothing is handed easily to you. Nothing that’s worth it will ever come easily. It’s that sentiment that keeps me from giving up when I really want to give up – because I know that if I push through, if I keep sailing, I will see the other shore. I’ll set foot in the sand, and I’ll have my reward.

My dad has constantly taught me to keep looking for the other shore – through rough seas, boats capsizing, and all.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

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