Father’s Day always takes me back to my life lessons learned from my dad.
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• Dad often told me, “Be careful of any free lunch offer. There isn’t such a thing as a free lunch.” He recommended that I step back and count to 50 when an offer that seemed “too good to be true” was offered.
• Over the years he taught me to examine people’s intentions before I praised or criticized them. If their intentions were good, I should overlook their mistakes or their failures … especially children.
• When I was about 12 or 13, my great-uncle John and other relatives told me that my father was a rowdy young adult who liked to drink and fight. Uncle John showed me a saloon window that my father had knocked two men through. I never liked my Uncle John for a few years until my grandfather said he told the truth about my dad.
• My father never bragged about drinking or fighting. He taught me how to recognize when a fight was brewing and recommended I leave the fight scene when I saw it brewing.
• My dad hated bullies. He did not recommend walking away from them. Instead, he preached that the only thing the bully would understand was a punch in the mouth.
• In grammar school, a big kid named Billy was always pushing me and telling me he was going to take care of me some day when I was walking to school. I talked to my dad about my Billy problem. For the next three days my dad taught me where to hit Billy before he knew it was coming. At my dad’s insistence, I hit my dad in the stomach and near his jaw at least a couple of hundred times.
• My dad said the first punch was the most important punch. He told me I would be scared when Billy came towards me, and that Billy would not expect me to be aggressive.
• Dad was right. I was scared when Billy stepped in front of me as I was walking to school. He took a swing at me. I ducked and hit him in the stomach. It worked! He doubled up and then I hit him in the nose, knocking him backwards. The “fight” was over!
When I told my dad what happened, he smiled and said, “Don’t make it a habit.” We celebrated with milkshakes and fries. He said, “Never start a fight, but be prepared to end it.”
• My father had a difficult time discussing personal items and was very reserved when it came to hugs or kisses. He thought emotions were too unpredictable, and he preferred to always be in control.
• I started to date Monika when she was 14 and brought her home to meet my parents. When we walked into the living room, my dad stood up and offered Monika his hand. She moved inside his hand and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. At first he froze for a few seconds, almost losing his balance. He never offered her a hand again! Monika is the only person I ever met who could sit on Dad’s lap, and he soon looked forward to it.
• By nature, my dad reminded me of a “southern gentleman” when it came to girls or ladies. When my mother or other ladies entered our living room, my brother and I were to stand up immediately and not sit down until the lady was seated and comfortable.
• Dad said our job was to protect all women and not to allow anyone to cuss when a lady was present. He tolerated no back-talk to our mother or any other women. We opened doors, carried groceries and followed their requests.
• Thank you, Dad, for teaching me what the “Golden Rule” really means. Thank you for teaching me to respect others and their feelings. After living with you and Mom, I had no doubts about how a Billingsley should conduct his life. Happy Father’s Day, each and every year. I love you.
Bob Billingsley is a columnist at the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.