Lawn Mowers, Crafts, Janitors and Factis Non Verbis: The Gospel According To Pop

My dad (or Pop, as the grandkids know him) is not a talker. He is, however, a prolific reader and since he doesn’t wear ties or dress shirts or after shave I thought for Father’s Day I’d write about a few of the things my siblings and I have learned from him over the years. Thanks for indulging me.

I began mowing our yard when I was 8 years old. I can admit that now because the statute of limitations on child abuse has expired. It has provided me with the ultimate trump card in the ongoing war with my son over who’s responsibility it is to mow our yard.

The boy: Dad, it’s 174 degrees outside and I just finished swimming, playing basketball and chasing girls all day. I’m beat and pretty sure I’ll drop dead from heat stroke if you force me against my will to mow the yard.

Me: Son, when I was your age I mowed the yard before I could even see over the handle. It was 1200 degrees Celsius and your Pop made me use a grass bagger, not this self propelled mulcher you’ve inherited. Our basketballs were flat, we swam in mud and every time we tried to chase a girl her dad would fire at us with a howitzer. Now put on your earphones and chase that lawn mower a while. It’s the only thing you’ll ever catch anyway.

Dad would stay close but wouldn’t micromanage. When I was done, at least by my definition of the word, we’d walk the yard together and he’d point out the places I’d missed at which point I’d grind my teeth, mutter under my breath, and wish ill upon him. But I’d fix it. Then we’d walk the yard again, he’d point something else out, and I’d fix it. After about 2000 times of this process repeating itself I learned Pop commandment number one:

Do it right. Or do it over.

Yard work was the worst, but this was applied to every household chore. Car washing, kitchen cleaning, whatever. Now, whenever I’m attempted to half butt anything, I hear my dad. And I do it right the first time.

My dad is always looking for stuff that needs to be done and doing it. He was high school booster club president for several years, even after my brother and I had graduated. Every year he’d take a collection of old helmets, saw them in half, and mount them on boards with a plaque to give to the senior football players. Nobody asked him to do this. He wanted to recognize the effort of a group of boys so he just did it. There are man caves all over Shreveport, Louisiana that have orange helmets mounted on their wall. I still have mine. That’s just an example, because my dad does stuff like this all the time. Whenever he sees a need, or somebody that should be recognized for a job well done, he does something about it. Which leads me to Pop commandment number 2:

Look for the good in people. Recognize it. Cultivate it.

Dad has been a Facilities Manager- he calls it janitor, but, you know, semantics- since I was in college. Most people have little or no idea of all the things he does on the job except when he’s sick or on vacation. Then the conversations go like this:

“Who adjusts the thermostats?”

“Skip”

“Who counts the number of people that visited today?”

“Skip”

“Who sets up the chairs for the meeting?”

“Skip”

“Who’s job is it to make sure the golf cart is charged?”

“Skip”

Doing the work without chest thumping has probably cost my dad a job or two, maybe even a raise, over the years. But Dad doesn’t need to let everybody know how important he is. He just goes on vacation. Pop commandment number 3:

Do the job. Don’t worry about who gets the credit.

“I just love your Dad!” Once people are aware that I am his son that’s all I hear. Thing is, nobody really knows why. All they can do is tell me about the time he did something for them, or helped them out of a jam, or whatever. I just assumed I was special because he’s always helping me out of jams, picking up my kids or letting me borrow his weed eater or something, but I figured that’s because I’m family. Apparently he does that for everyone. Pop commandment 4:

People remember the stuff you do, not the stuff you say.

See Dad, I was paying attention. Happy Father’s Day!

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