Lessons From Dad

Lessons From Dad
(Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock)

From the get-go, my role as “Mom” was crystal clear: There is a human being growing inside your body for whom you are responsible. Everything you do will affect your little one. Got it?

As for the role of “Dad” I’ll never know. Yet, from years of observation, there seems to be quite a bit of navigating involved. I was blessed to have a dad who weathered life’s storms and did his best to steady the pace. Always a gentleman, and by nature a cheerleader for the underdog, he looked you in the eye and gave you the benefit of the doubt.

Dad was all about getting us seven kids “outside the box.” He was forever telling us, “Life is about now. Enjoy the moment.” After surviving a debilitating car accident at the age of 35, he seemed to approach life without fear.

Dad loved the ocean and taught us how to maneuver the waves. Petrified yet thrilled, the crashing breakers washed us up onto the sand. With outstretched arms, Dad coaxed us back, to try again.

Dad loved his tools. He drove Mom crazy collecting “great deals” he found at garage sales. My favorite was his wood lathe. Standing on a wooden stool, sporting goggles, and grasping the chisel with both hands, I watched the square block of wood spin into a blur. Dad coached, “Now, take your time. Just touch the wood with the chisel.” Too eager to listen, I extended the tool forward. The chisel hit the wooden block and went airborne across the room. Wide-eyed, I thought, “If Mom knew what we were doing, we’d be in big trouble!”

Dad never encouraged us to “fit in” and rejected the idea wholeheartedly. As an 8th grader, I was invited to boy/girl parties. My friend Diane and I asked our fathers for rides.

On occasion, my dad enjoyed cigars. When it was our turn to drive to the parties, I begged Dad not to smoke his cigar. Diane and I wanted to smell pretty for the boys! Dad growled, “Who cares?” So, Diane and I found a solution. Her dad would drive us to the parties, and my dad would drive us home.

I mention the cigars, because all my life, I’ve shunned popular trends and do not try to “fit in.” I still want to smell pretty, but my dad was right. Who cares?

At age 16, Dad let me drive from our home on Long Island to the Bronx to visit my grandparents. While crossing the Throggs Neck Bridge, Dad said, “You’re too close to the box truck in front of you. You can’t see what’s ahead of it.” Confidently keeping up with the heavy traffic, I rolled my eyes and ignored him.

Suddenly, the box truck driver hit his brakes in response to a broken-down vehicle. To avoid a collision, I yanked my wheel to the left which caused the car driver in the left lane to hit his brakes. With all the screeching and swerving, I started to cry. Dad murmured, “Not a good idea to drive behind a box truck.” He never mentioned this again. He didn’t need to.

So, to all you Navigators who do your best to steady the pace as you cheer, coax, coach, and chauffeur your kids, happy Father’s Day!

Bernadette Bonanno lives in Albany, N.Y.
Related Topics