Dad of little things

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Rick Ryckeley

After losing our Dad two years ago, Father’s Day around our house is now a bittersweet event. While we were growing up, his influence on us five kids was inescapable. For me, his youngest son, it has been profound. Not for the big things he said and did, but for all the little things.

Those seven magical years spent growing up on Flamingo Street, I learned a lot about life, like how to be a dad and a granddad, all by observing him and the little things he did everyday. Even now I can still hear his voice and guidance.

Dad left for work long before sunrise and returned long after sunset. This was his routine five days a week. On Saturdays he’d work only half a day; the rest he’d spend in the garden. Sunday was for family and church.

Sick only once that I can remember, he still went to work even then. Working all the time, even when sick, was a little thing to him. After all, he had a family to support.

By watching him do these “little things,” he instilled in me a work ethic that has served me throughout my entire life. I’ve worked six days a week, sometimes at three jobs, and only called in sick twice. I know Sundays are for family and church.

Cursing wasn’t tolerated. I know to some it’s a little thing, but not around our house. I can remember Dad uttering a profane word only once. Unfortunately, I happened to be the reason and was in his van when it was shouted.

We had just run a stop sign at the bottom of a steep hill, barely missing getting hit by oncoming traffic. And by “we,” I mean me. Dad always said anyone using a curse word couldn’t think of another word to use. I guess, as the truck whooshed by his door, a curse word was all he could think of.

To this day I’m proud to say I’ve only spoken a few colorful words. Thanks, Dad, for demonstrating everyday the importance of using proper language by the simple little thing of not cursing.

I’m now passing those lessons onto our granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline. After six years they’ve never heard their Big Papa use profanity. And many years from now, I hope also to pass on the importance of stopping at all stop signs — especially those located at the bottom of steep hills.

Dad made us sit up straight at the dinner table so we would develop good posture. He also made us say, “Yes, Ma’am,” “No, Ma’am,” “Yes, Sir,” “No, Sir,” “Please,” “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome.”

He didn’t tolerate lying at 110 Flamingo Street. Only honesty. When we got into trouble and had to tell Dad, he believed us. No matter what had been done, the punishment for lying would be far greater.

Posture, manners, and honesty – these little things were drilled into our daily lives. Like most of the little things we’d learned on Flamingo, as adults they have become big things.

I understand now everything he did he did with intentions of raising us up the best way he could … one little rule at a time. Funny, all those little rules are the very same rules his great-granddaughters are now also being made to follow. Every day, I can see his many traits in their lives, and it makes me smile though I’m sure they don’t realize their origins.

When they are ready, I will happily tell Sweet Caroline and Little One why their Big Papa makes them sit up straight at the dinner table and say, “Yes, Ma’am,” “No, Ma’am,” “Yes, Sir,” “No, Sir,” “Please,” and “Thank you.”

Looking back, I don’t resent Dad for the few harsh words spoken, punishment dealt out, or being grounded that one time for running the stop sign and almost killing both of us. Being honest, I deserved all of it and, if he really knew everything I got away with, he would’ve cussed a lot more and I’d still be grounded even today.

Thanks for all the little things you gave us five kids without even knowing. Thanks for being the Dad of little things.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]