|Thanks to my Father for my Life Teachings
Thanks to my Father for my Life Teachings
To my father, James Thomas McKinney in celebration of his 80th birthday, January 12, 2005
For your 80th birthday, and for that matter, many of them, I have pondered what to get you…. a man of few needs or wants; simplicity at its finest. After giving it much thought, I decided to attempt to tell you just a few of the ways you have forever touched and shaped my life--my father, my dad, my friend, the children’s grandfather who chased them down the hotel hallway with his teeth in his hand.
Dad, it is true you are known as a man of few words; clearly, that is also not one of the genes I inherited as evidenced early on by the many notes sent home from school telling you I talked too much. You must have wanted to strangle me. As I work now to listen more and talk less, I am thankful for the wisdom I have regarding the power of silence; the importance of listening; and how when you speak less, people listen to you more. Dad, you showed me this.
A few memories have stayed with me over the years, one in particular that I would like to share with you. I believe I was 18 or 19, and you and I were in the car together. We must have been discussing what career I was going to pursue. At the time, I was contemplating medical school. You said to me, “Janet, you can do whatever you want to do, and your mother and I will support you.” Those words meant the world to me, and I believe marked the beginning of my own journey as in them you gave me permission to do what I wanted to do, and in doing so, I had your blessing.
While you may be a man of few words, you are one of great actions. You showed me that actions are as important as words. We did not grow up in a house where I love you was said often; but we did grow up in a house where your actions, day in and day out, showed us you loved us. You played with us; coached our sports and if not coaching, attended our sporting and musical events; encouraged us; disciplined us; supported us; ensured we were well fed (just look at my old pictures), clothed, and warm. And when we were young, you prayed with us at night when you put us to bed.
You have also shown us this through your relationship with Mom—50+ years. David & I will have to be 91 & 85 to celebrate 50 years—I’ll let you know if we make it. I know we will if we have learned from you and mom. Through sickness and in health; for better or for worse; for richer or poorer, until death us do part. Imagine this, the magnitude of these words came to me only after marriage. Marriage is all about compromise, making time for each other, accepting of the good and the annoying, and forgiveness.
I remember when Mom had her stroke; where I was when you called to tell me, and my immediate reaction, “I’m not ready to loose her.” While testimony to her, it is also testimony to you that you were there with her throughout –the beginning when she could not speak, to helping her learn how to walk again, to going with her to the mall to get her daily walk in. Always encouraging her by your actions; believing in her ability to recover yet accepting of where she was.
As you know, there was a time in my adult life where I did yearn to hear those words from you---now, I realize that words are meaningless without the actions to support them.
Dad, thank you for teaching me the importance of aligning your actions with your words.
The “friends and family” plan---MCI thought they came up with it, but I will give you credit. As we are now, when we were young we were separated geographically from our extended families, yet, you made sure we knew our relatives---on both sides. I have fond memories that I will treasure for my life of traveling on holidays to see grandparents; cousins; aunts and uncles--if only to share one meal which guaranteed lots of laughs. And you always opened our home to them--repeatedly in spite of the spit ball fights and the burning bras, or the exposure to rated R movies. And, then of course, those family vacations with Grandmother Helen---it would be interesting to compare stories 20+ years later. You created family memories for us then, and you continue to in our adulthood.
And let us not forget friends. Some of the funniest pictures from our childhood are from the parties you and mom had with your friends. I remember Ric and I, supposedly in bed, sitting right by the “closed” pocket door to the hallway, listening and looking in on all the fun. You encouraged us to play with friends; invite them over to spend the night; and travel with them. My childhood was rich with friends, thanks to you.
Again, in marriage, I have
learned how easy it is to get wrapped up in the kids’ activities and work--the overall busyness-- and fail to find time to cultivate friendships. Every time I talk to you and mom, you reinforce for me the importance and value of friendships. “We went out to dinner with the McMahons.” “Dad’s playing golf with his buddies.” “Mom’s at PEO.” “We are going to dinner with the Crooks, the Rouses, and on.” “Saturday night is bridge club.” The richness they add to your lives is obvious.
So, thank you Dad, for teaching us about the friends and family plan.
I shudder to think where I would be had I not been raised with the value of education and of learning. In SW Virginia, it is common for friends of Whitney’s and Shawn’s to be the first in their family to go to college. My memory says that “not going” was never discussed. Going was a given. You and mom went; our grandparents went; your grandmother went, we were going.
Early on, we learned that good grades came from studying, and you praised us for them. You or mom were always involved in our schools, and helped us with our homework. You paid for our college educations so that we graduated without owing a dime. You instilled in me the drive for excellence, and always doing my best.
You have also shown us that learning occurs throughout our lifetime. This is ever so obvious when I listen to you and David talk, how much you know about so many things. David says to me, “you know Janet, your Dad knows a lot”. With him, you are not a man of few words. You read –Time; Fortune; books of all types; the newspaper. You continue to explore new areas through your travels, and visits to museums. You have shown us when we embrace learning, our quality of life is enhanced, even as we age.
Thank you Dad, for the showing us the importance of education and life long learning.
Dad, you instilled in me the foundational principles and values of the Christian faith. Growing up, every Sunday, no excuses, we were at church and usually Sunday school and then we would always come home for Sunday dinner at noon—on the grill. Except when we were in Oklahoma City, we occasionally got to go to Lady Classon cafeteria for dinner—fried chicken and apple pie with a cheese slice on top of the crust. I am not sure what would prompt those outings, but I remember loving them.
Honor thy Mother & Father; respect your elders; do not lie, steal or cheat; jealousy has no place; accept others; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I could give you many examples of this. I strive in my life to live by these values---although I am very grateful for forgiveness of my sins. Where would I be without that?
There is one poignant memory I want to share. I remember when OKC instituted desegregation. You were coaching Ric’s baseball team and there was an African Amercian boy who came home with Ric after school so that he could play on the team. No issue made. My guess is that young boy who is now a man remembers that too. In many instances, your actions showed us that all people are created equal. As I see daily the prejudice that still exists in my community, I am so very thankful that you showed me there is no place for it.
You have showed us the role of faith in many ways, and how our faith guides us through our life. I imagine we each in here also remember when we learned of your diagnosis –non-Hodkins lymphoma. I had the same reaction as I did with Mom’s stroke—not ready to loose him. It was very clear you were at peace with what faced you—whatever the outcome. You followed doctor’s orders, concentrated on healing, and persevered through the trials of treatment. We are all grateful for your remission, and for your modeling how to face a life-threatening illness, strengthened by your faith.
Dad, thanks for raising us in the church, guiding the development of our Christian faith.
So dad, there are so many things I have learned from you, and will continue to. I wish I could mention them all, but rather vow to share more with you as the years go by for God willing, I can in vision being with you to celebrate 90 years. But let’s us live in the present, and make the most of each day for we truly never now when they will be taken away.
So thank you Dad for everything.
“Your favorite middle child”
About the Author
Janet Crawford holds a BA, Baylor University (1982) & MBA/MHA, University of Missouri (1984).As an Executive Coach, Professional Speaker & author, her mission is to help individuals & organizations maximize their return on human capital—managing human behaviors for optimal outcomes.