The Flags of our Fathers
Another Father’s Day is here! It’s been a whole year, but now it’s time once again for dads to get the appreciation, the recognition, and the respect that some of them never get at any other time. It’s another day for kids, friends, girlfriends, and wives to celebrate the dads in their lives. However, other than the mere exchange of gifts, what does this day really mean to you?
If you’re a son fortunate enough to still have his father in his life, maybe you think of it as just another day to take the old man out to eat steak at his favorite restaurant. Or, if you’re a father yourself, maybe you think of it as just another day for you to act “surprised” when you open up that gift-wrapped package with that latest electronic gadget tucked inside. You know what I’m talking about. The one that you’ve been dropping hints about for the past three weeks. Yes, for you, Father’s Day will definitely be a good day.
But for just as many men, Father’s Day also represents something else: A memory——a memory of a much-loved father who may have passed away. Yes, that can make it a bittersweet memory, but its still a fond memory just the same. This article is written in honor of all of our fathers——those who are still with us and those who have passed on.
Long after we become adults, the flags of our fathers, the words they’ve spoken into our lives, still wave prominently in the background of our lives. Some of those words were words of wisdom, while others were words of whimsy. In honor of this day, and in hopes it’ll help you reconnect to your own fond memories, I’d like to share with you some of the most memorable quotes from my own father and grandfather—–along with my present day interpretation of what they meant.
My Dad, though a man of a very few words, tended to make most of them count——especially whenever he thought it was time to deploy a few weapons of wisdom on my behalf. He was a very serious man, a military veteran who found himself pressed into service just as much as a civilian as he did when he was an enlisted man. He was no nonsense, very direct, and always sincere.
Things my father said…
- Believe what people do instead of what they say, especially when what they say isn’t ever what they do. (Ignore most advice that people give you when you don’t ever see them following it themselves)
- If bullies pick on you, beat the hell out of the biggest one first, and then all the rest of them will leave you alone. (This used to work pretty good for us little boys “back in the day”, but I often wonder how well it works now——-in these days when you hear about so many kids bringing guns to fist fights…)
- Anything that you can’t say “no” too is your master and you are it’s slave. (Enough said.)
- No woman is ever gonna love you like your mother, so don’t expect her to. (He told me this while I was still reeling from a particularly bad teenage breakup. That was the first time I learned by experience the difference between conditional and unconditional love.)
- The day will come when you’ll feel like life is trying to take everything you’ve got, and the only thing you’ll have left to hold onto is your self-respect. (Didn’t understand what he meant when he said it, but now I do. Better to die on your feet than live life on your knees——-disgusted every time you look at the man in the mirror.)
- What you think is so important to you right now probably won’t be a few years from now, so just keep living…(Always keep things in perspective. Isn’t it amazing just how much time can influence your point of view and sometimes entirely change the way you think?)
- Most people in life that you call your friends will only turn out to be associates. You’ll be lucky if you have more than a handful of true friends your entire life. (I remember exactly when my Dad said this to me. I had just started working on my very first real job. I was really surprised at how well I got along with all my coworkers, so I told him about it when I got home. That’s when he dropped that whole friends/associates bomb on me. Didn’t exactly get what he meant when he said it, but now I understand if perfectly. He was right. Decades after I left that job, I only have one true friend that still remains from out of all the people I met there.)
- The woman that you choose to marry will say more about who you are than the job that you choose to work. (I figure what he meant by this was that sometimes you have to work “somewhere” just to eat, have a place to stay, and take care of yourself. By contrast, picking the woman who’ll be your ally for life is a far more critical decision than most men realize.)
- It’s easier to act like a man when you’re standing in front of people than it is to be a man when nobody is looking. (A stronger foundation for true character is built by working from the inside out, not the other way around.)
- The two biggest problems you’ll face in life is getting money and getting women. But if you can get money first, then getting women will be a lot easier. (When he first told me this, I had no comment. I still have no comment. I’m speechless. I am without speech. Anyway, moving on…)
- Always take care of your health, son. Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. (A rather extreme statement, but I understood why he said it. Unfortunately, he told me this after suffering from the aftereffects of a heart attack, then followed by a stroke later in his life.)
- Never let the people you work with know how to push your buttons. Better yet, remove your buttons so they’ll never have anything to push. (Thriving, and even just surviving in the workplace is more like playing chess than checkers. You sabotage your ability to make bold, strategic moves every time you let yourself be put in “react” mode. It’s usually better to make workplace decisions from a state of emotion control than emotion out-of-control.)
- What you do for a living is not who you are, it just pays for what you want to do. (Or, like my ally Dr. Vibe always says, “Money is not the mission, it only funds the mission!)
- Never let the wrong woman know how much time or money you have. Because once you tell her, she’ll find a way to help you waste both of them. (Enough said.)
- Hey, if this $hit was so hard to do, you wouldn’t see so many people out here doing it! (This is what my dad said about almost everything. This was especially the case whenever I was trying something new——like learning how to drive, working and going to school at the same time, or striking up conversations with the prettiest girls. Interestingly, later on, as an adult, I heard a friend of mine use the same phrase, and it immediately made me remember where I heard it first.)
My Granddad was a hardworking, blue collar man who was known to say whatever came to his mind——whether you were ready for it or not. Indeed, he dropped his own fair share of knowledge bombs over the years too. Some of his advice was good. Some of it was great. And some of it was just plain funny.
Things my grandfather said…
- Just ‘cause you think you know it all don’t mean you have to tell it all. (Nobody really likes or respects a guy who has diarrhea of the mouth. Not to mention that running your mouth all the time can be just plain stupid.)
- When you meet the right woman for you, she’ll be the one who changes your life for the better. (Enough said.)
- Never ignore or make fun of all those awkward, not-so-good-looking, little girls that you grow up with, because a lot of those same little girls will grow up and become gorgeous overnight. This usually happens over a summer while they’re still in high school, and when it does, they’ll always remember those guys who were nice to them before! (If there was ever some advice that I was glad I followed when I was a high school boy, it was this! Ah, what fond memories come to mind…)
- There’s no such thing as common sense. (I used to try to argue with my granddad about this, but I had to concede that he was actually right. What he was saying is that what’s common to some is not common to all. In the most literal sense, shared experiences and the knowledge gained from them have to be perceived exactly the same way for each person’s understanding of that experience to be identical. That’s the only way for the concept of “common sense” to be true—–isn’t it? Wait a minute, did I just get a little too deep on this one? Maybe so. Well anyway, moving on to the next quote…)
- Even people who say they don’t believe in God will find a way to believe in miracles——–when they need one. (I think what he meant by this was that people will always believe in something, it’s only “what” they believe in that’s subject to change.)
- Every tub sits on it’s own bottom. (Oh, I know what you’re thinking…WTF?? It took me awhile, but I finally figured out that what he was saying was just an old school, dirty-south way of saying something similar to “Water seeks it’s own level.” Or, “Birds of a feather flock together”. And so on, and so on.)
- A hard head makes a soft behind. (Either learn things the easy way by listening or learn them the hard way by suffering the consequences of not listening.)
- Boy! If you don’t act right, you’d better! (This was my granddad’s way of keeping me in line. Notice, how what he said at first “seems” like he was actually giving me a choice, but of course, he really was not.)
- As long as you still got your money in your pocket, you’ve got the right to demand the service that you deserve. (As a 9-year-old boy, I once watched my granddad make an irritated, racist butcher at a grocery store slice meat three times before he finally cut it the way my granddad initially asked him to. I recall feeling uncomfortable during the situation, but I remember my granddad only being completely calm and confident.)
- Look, I done already told you once. Now if I have to tell you again, it’s gonna be by hand…(Sometimes, when he knew I was pretending not to hear what he was telling me, that was his way of letting me know that he was always ready to crack open a fresh can of Whoop Ass——just for me…)
- Nah, I don’t want no “rabbit food”. I wanna eat something that’s gonna make a turd. (That was my granddad’s patented reply to anybody who had the nerve to try to get him to eat a salad. You can imagine how “endearing” this was to my grandmamma whenever he used that line while dining out at upscale restaurants.)
- Get the most out of your life now, because the older you get, the faster time flies. (Thinking we have all the time in the world is a misconception that we all realize eventually, and the sooner we realize it, the better.)
So there you have it. Though my father and grandfather have both passed away, their memory, their wisdom, and their wit still live on. And even though I still miss them dearly, my love and appreciation for them remains undying——and today I proudly “fly their flags”.
Happy Father’s Day!
To listen to the Audio Version of “The Flags of our Fathers”, Click Here!
~Victory Unlimited © 2012