~Shifting Gears~for Father’s Day~






With Father’s Day, right around the corner, I recall all of the lessons my daddy taught me along the way in life.   My dad is a wonderful man and I am so incredibly lucky that he is my father.  I must give a lot of credit to him for me being the woman (and human being) I am today and how I continue to evolve.  As a single woman I have learned how to buy a car without getting ripped off, how to change the oil or tire and how to navigate the world around me fairly successfully.  But without the training wheels, and then the gears, would I be as successful?  I don’t think so.

Training Wheels  – Stay on the bike and don’t get too many scrapes.

I was a full-out tomboy when I was a little girl (and that tomboy is alive and well under the first scrubbed layer of my feminine- adult -woman -self).  I was happiest outdoors, running, playing, climbing and being generally mischievous.  I already had gotten “tangled” up in doors and corners, which required a series of trips to the emergency room, and stitches.  I guess getting me on a bicycle seemed like a better alternative to channel all of my energy.

I remember, very clearly, my dad taking me to the local Catholic School yard, to teach me how to ride a bicycle.  We lived in the Bronx then and finding a safe space to teach a very energetic child how to ride safely was a big challenge, according to my father.  But he managed and I managed to stay on the bike and not get too many scrapes (until later on my teenage bike trip to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod – but that’s a story for another time.  I digress.)

1st gear  – Keep active and fit.  Enjoy balance.

Sports – the sheer love of it.  My father (and mother) believed, and still does, in an active lifestyle.   Exercise.  Health.  Fun.  Family.  Mental well being. All were threaded together.  Out of his three daughters, I was the first to really embrace the love of activity and sports, but we all participated.  We rode bikes together on weekends, ran the track, played tennis, went to sports events and played in the back yard.   To this day I exercise because I love to, not because I necessarily have to.  Just a few years ago my dad and I rode on LBI (Long Beach Island) together and it will forever remain one of my fondest memories.

Yet I also learned “down time” from him…he always found time for one  creative endeavor, or another, and always, always, there was time to read a good book or work on a word puzzle.  The balance between the two, and his rolemodeling this to me, has provided me with my recipe for a good life.

2nd gear  – Show respect and tell the truth.

As I grew from young girl to adolescent, my mouth got sassier and my tales got a wee bit, um, “taller”.   I could associate this with some inner turmoil, or attribute it to my creative writing skills blossoming, but the truth is, I was just a contrary child.   Only when I got caught in a lie did I truly learn the magnitude of my action.  When my father looked at me and said, “It will be a long time until I trust you again” and I felt my world crumble, I knew I had to stop being difficult for the sake of being difficult.  I yearned for my father to trust me again and, to this day, I strive to be truthful in all situations, at all times. I take the lesson learned and have reshaped it to be useful, positive and productive with my child advocacy.  At times my honesty is too sharp and I still have a way to go to learn how to hone it down a bit, but I always think “What would my father do?” or “Would I do this if my father were standing next to me?” and so he remains my moral compass.

With truth comes respect.  When truthful, you show respect.

3rd gear  – Boys and Men.

My dad warned me about them.  Those reckless, dangerous boys.  But did I listen?  Well, yes and no.  I think I was more reckless than any boy I came across because my dad taught me not to take any crap.  I broke a few hearts, I am sure.  Sorry, boys.  But then came the men…….and, well, I made a few impulsive decisions and paid the price for not heeding my father’s warning.  You see, he warned me that there are bad men out there, but it was difficult to believe, given the man in my life  – him.  He said  that “real” men have a gentle side, love and respect the women in their lives, communicate in a healthy way and are trustworthy. My dad would take the time to usher a spider, or bee, out of the house, rather than kill the little creature.   So I learned not all men are “good” the hard way.  I also discovered some boys never become men.  I got a lot of scrapes during this time, but I stayed on the bike, kept pedaling and changed the path I was on.  Now the view is much lovlier.

He reminds me to this day, because I still need it,  that I am a honorable and powerful woman and deserve for my love to be earned, not given over freely.  He taught me to be a lady, an athelte, a parent and a good human being.  Dad taught me that we are all flawed and to forgive myself, and others (including those “pesky” men),  more freely.

4th gear  – Take life by the wheel and drive.  p.s  Guys like girls who know how to stick shift.

When I was sixteen my family took a “National Lampoon” style vacation cross country, mostly by car.  There are so many stories which stream from this trip, but for now I’ll focus on Colorado.  You know how certain places resonate so profoundly with you, the very air and ground feel a natural part of your soul?  Well, the Boulder area did that for me.  We stayed at a wonderful place, outside of Boulder, in Estes Park.  We went had cabins, went tubing and horseback riding on wooded trails in the mountains.  I just adored this place.  One day my dad asked me to take a drive with him.  We had rented a car, with stick shift.  He knew I was just ACHING to learn how to drive, but little did I know what he had in mind.  We drove around for a while and found ourselves on a dirt road.

He suddenly pulled over and stopped.  I looked at him, wondering what was wrong with the car, but he didn’t seem nervous or concerned.  I thought perhaps we were going to go hiking or something.  He got out of the car and said, “Your turn to drive”.  I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement, but also fear.

Here?  On a dirt road?  Stick shift?  Was he insane? “No better place to learn.  Don’t be scared.  And, by the way, guys like girls who know how to stick shift.”  Well, those were the magic words.  I climbed into the driver’s seat, took the wheel and off we went.  Well, putter, putter, stall, stall, stall, stall, off we went.   To this day I drive stick shift, I don’t grind the gears and I try to keep the ride as smooth as possible.  An occasional putter or stall is all part of the journey, but while driving, it’s best to forgo those options.

5th gear  -  Change gears.  Rev up.

Just when you think it’s time to coast on the highway, in 5th gear, you come across construction, a bump or a detour.  Such is driving and such is life.  But oh, the lessons to be learned. Now you must know my dad is a terrible back seat driver, hates traffic with a passion and although he grew up in New York City, avoids it like the plague now.  But he taught me good defensive driving skills.  “Always be aware of who is around you on the road.  Check your mirrors.  Don’t get drowsy.  If possible, know an alternative route, if the situation arises and you need one.”

And so it goes.  Is it ever too late to change lanes, pass, take a different road for safety’s sake, or for pleasure?  Can you change gears quickly, if need be?  Rev up or slow down?   According to my dad,  the answer is yes. It is never too late to live your life.  At 55 he went back to school, left the world of business and became a nurse.  At 60 he went into counseling with my mom (his wife of almost 60 years, now) to work on their marriage and this past summer he bravely faced bypass surgery to improve the quality of his life.

Yes.  We can.

Reverse  – We are not Doodle bugs

When riding a bicycle, or driving, you can go in reverse, but there is no such thing in life.  Some try to live in the past, or in their memories, but all we have is the here and now.  We press onward whether we like it or not.  We can move quietly, boldly, or fight  our way through, but forward we go.   I am learning not to have regrets, for my life is mine .  My lessons to be learned are mine.  Daddy taught me it’s okay to be a tad bit selfish at this stage of the road, without stripping away the giving nature I have.  The training wheels’ balance, the security he gave me, is still needed as my journey is still unfolding.


About the Author ()

I am very passionate, sometimes too impulsive, a lover of life and all that it has to offer.

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