"Your father has to say ten-thousand words a day." It's a line my mom dropped years ago when we were laughing about my dad's chatty personality, and she joked that at the end of the day, if he's been alone, my dad just talks and talks "to reach his word quota." Luckily, he's a smart guy who reads more newspapers than anyone I've ever met, so he's never short on interesting topics.
The other half of the joke, of course, is that I have to say ten-thousand words a day, too. (For the record, I think my quota is far smaller, but either way, the point is basically that I talk a lot, too.) It's one of the many, many habits I've picked up from my dad over the years.
And with all that chatter of his, my dad spent a lot of time telling me things, teaching my things. In elementary school, he taught me how to ride a bike, how to swing a bat, how to play chess and swim backstroke and polish my long-division skills. He spent an entire weekend helping me to perfect a speech in middle school, and those three years brought more basketball, volleyball, soccer, track, and golf lessons than I could ever possibly count. You need a free-throw routine. Anticipate the ball. Don't look back at the other runners — look ahead, keep your eyes forward.
High school marked the prime time of Dad Lectures. He instructed me to fill up the gas tank when it's a quarter full, and to make plans in the middle of the week because it's the best way to prioritize what you really what to do. Before school dances, he encouraged me to embrace the curls and "stand up straight" for photos, and every Friday and Saturday night, he told me to "make good choices." When things were hard, he told me to look inward, and when things were good, he told me to surround myself with people who celebrated my successes. He told me the bad-boy thing was a phase (it was) and that good guys were worth waiting for (they were) and that sometimes, it wasn't all that easy to tell the difference between the two (sigh). And for all the times I wished he wasn't, my dad was always right.
There were a lot of lessons, a lot of lectures, and although so many of his ten-thousand-a-day words are left etched in my mind, it's what my dad didn't say that I remember most. It's what I learned from watching him, from imitating him, that's served me best over the years.
From my father, I learned to arrive three hours early to the airport, just in case. I learned to never turn down a piece of cake, to always tip well, and to tell someone you love them as often as you think it. I learned to apologize when I was wrong, to forgive myself as I'd forgive another. I learned to sometimes stop for directions, and to know when I could find my own way. I learned how to make other people feel special, how to be selfless without losing myself, how to give when I had little to share. Mostly, though, I learned how to love — easily and honestly, without pretense or fear or hesitation.
Because those three, of course, were always my favorite of his ten-thousand words. They came as he tucked me in, as he turned out the light, as he winked and laughed: "Who loves you?"
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Related: What I've Learned From My Father