Things My Father Taught Me
Society is filled with pop-culture references about boys and their fathers. Songs like Father & Son by Cat Stevens or Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin — movies like About Time and a Goofy Movie… all paint pictures of what a father and son relationship can be. Obviously there’s reverence around such a relationship. Society tells us that relationships with the father-figures in our lives shape the way we view the world and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. My father raised my brother and I as Penn State Football fans. To this day, that identity is one of the most natural and pure connections I have. There are probably a variety of forces that are acting to cultivate that feeling, but I maintain that the most important one is that this was an identity shared with my father for as long as I can remember. Things imparted by my dad seem to be things that still have significance to the core of my identity and on Father’s Day, there’s never a better time to shine a light on a few of them.
As a kid, there’s always an appetite for thrills. Growing up in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, you have to take those thrills where you can get them. Buffalo Crossroads was that place for us — it was nothing more than a few hills and “tummy tickler” roads that flip your stomach like you’re on a roller coaster, but taking two or three trips down Buffalo Crossroads took a boring run to the hardware store and turned it into a memory. These excursions were ones that were done almost exclusively with dad (I don’t think mom ever had as much of a stomach for them) and they are memories that will always be near and dear to me. Late Summer always brought us to Lewisburg (as we would stay there with family during our trips up to enjoy the Little League World Series) but the memories of a somersaulting stomach and laughs in the passenger seat with Dad are ones that always come back around that time of year. I realize now that I’m older that we were very rarely taking these roads because they were convenient or on the way — but instead, dad made these memories intentionally and just to bring joy into our lives. The lesson remains at the forefront of my mind to this day. As a lover of efficiency and maximizing value, I don’t always take the time that I should to inject additional joy into the lives of those around me, but anytime I find myself thinking back to Buffalo Crossroads, it’s a gentle reminder that the joy is always worth the detour.
A recurring theme in the lessons learned from Dad is using time with great consideration. This leads me to a Saturday tradition in the Sauers household: Dad’s Weekend Breakfasts. Throughout my childhood, my dad worked full-time and rarely saw extended time off. So to see Dad, nearly every Saturday, cooking a family breakfast, is a really impressive habit in hindsight. Whether it was oatmeal, peanut butter toast and chocolate milk, or a sausage/bacon breakfast sandwich, Dad always found ways to consistently be there for us and breakfast on the weekends was a cornerstone of that. The act itself isn’t the takeaway — though, it’s one that I wouldn’t mind to replicate in the future— but instead its the mindset that inspired it. The idea of making time for the people whom he loved and cared about was one that I easily picked up on. It may have precipitated in the most memorable way with breakfast, but it could have been seen at him showing up to my little league games or playing wiffleball/football with me and my brother. The impetus of making time for family was instilled from a very early age and one I still try to adhere to every day.
The first two of these lessons are ones that I willingly and easily have loved replicating in my life as an adult. They’re ones that sound like the kind of wisdom that people pass along from their deathbed. This last one is less fun — less easy. It stems from seeing my Dad provide for our family for my entire life; from seeing him maintain yards and fix bikes and keep all of the proverbial plates spinning during my childhood: Put in the hard work. Like I said above, Dad worked a full-time job for as long as I could remember. He started in humble roles but took pride in the efforts he put in as he ascended to bigger and better positions in his career. He did the hard work professionally and that in and of itself is a huge lesson. But beyond that, he put in the hard work at home even after punching out at work. He was handy around the house, always maintaining pristine lawns and curb appeal for our homes and he took pride in doing the hard work of raising my brother and I. Of those things, I’m sure my brother and I likely pushed the limits of that work far more than the professional hurdles and odd jobs around the house. But the hard work he showed us as a dad and the elbow grease that we saw produced in the trenches, raising us, is something that stands out even seven years removed from living in my parents’ home.
Those special moments and memories are what always comes to mind as on Father’s Day. I know not everyone had the privilege of being raised in a home with a dad. Even more, a dad who exercised such care, love, and strong work ethic. Hopefully these words help to show my gratitude and appreciation for the fact that I did. I treasure that fact and don’t take it lightly. Happy Father’s Day, all.