Delicious Life Lessons I Learned from My Father

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As Father’s Day approaches I, of course, think of my Dad who left this Earth in 2012. He was a good man, my Pop. His last several years were difficult, filled with numerous medical issues and a wife who was unable to deal kindly with his physical and emotional challenges. So when he left, I was happy for him. I imagine him now responsibility and nagging free, enjoying himself with a Stoli over ice in one hand and a remote control in the other, watching me live my life filled with love and meaning…and being over-the-moon happy for me.

While many judged Dad’s lack of interests − he didn’t play golf, take classes or volunteer  − I understood.  He was a typical man of the 50s who focused the majority of his life on his responsibilities. The first half of his grownup life he took care of my crazy Mother, my brother and me and the second half he took care of his new wife, with whom he spent 20+ very happy years until he got very sick.

My Dad did “his job” in this life, and he did it well. Here is an article I wrote soon after his passing. I wanted to express who he was and how much I appreciated that smart, caring man with the integrity you wish you’d see in everyone you meet. I think you’ll love him as much as I do.

I miss you Dad.

(PS: I’d love to hear about your Dad.)

My Dad died. There…I said it out loud. Even though I was by his side and saw him take his very last breath, it’s been hard to believe he’s gone forever. F-o-r-e-v-e-r.

I wanted to write this article for Thanksgiving so I could publicly thank him and show my gratitude. How trite, I thought. It doesn’t do him justice.

Bobbi Palmer and her DadSo I write now. On a dreary Friday in November. Just another day like every single day since October 2 when I think of him and wish he were here.

I very much want to honor this honorable man. I also want to pass on some of his life tips. I know he would get a kick out of me doing this. Not just because receiving public gratitude is pretty nice, but because it validates that he did a good job teaching me. (Yes…I was listening, Dad!)

I now see that Melvin took his job as Father very seriously. He made a good living. He set a strong and positive example. He taught us something every day. He raised two hard-working, nice people.

I also see that he loved me deeply. I never fully realized that until the last several years of his life. He was a typical man of the 50s and showing emotion was like speaking a language he never learned. As a side effect of his strokes, though, Dad became less able to control his emotions. He started telling me he was proud of me. He told me he loved me. And as he did, he would choke up and even cry.

Dad also showed a huge amount of love and appreciation for the man I picked to marry.

By the time I got married at 47, Dad had given up on the idea of me ever snagging a man. He stopped asking what was “going on.” My wedding fund had been dissolved into another account. He worried (at times out loud) that I’d never have anyone to take care of me.

That always really pissed me off. I knew my Dad thought I wasn’t whole without a husband. He also thought that I couldn’t attract one because I was doing something very wrong.

After he received the news of my upcoming nuptials, dear Dad told my brother “I hope she doesn’t screw this one up!”  After my brother told me that (which was a stupid thing only a man would do) I was mad at my Dad for at least a year.

(As an aside, when I first talked to my Dad about my wedding here’s what he said: You can wear white, honey. Don’t worry…I won’t tell anybody. That was the delightful, funny side of my Dad!)

Just about the time Melvin was due to walk me down the aisle, now that I was sharing my life with an amazing man, I started to get it. My Pops was scared for me. He knew life was hard. (See below.) He wanted me to be happy, and knew how much having a good partner would enrich my life. He didn’t want me to have to face every event, every decision and every success in my life without a #1 fan.

At 47 I learned that my Dad was still smarter than me. Even though he was living circa Father Knows Best times, he knew something I didn’t know. Life is better with a partner who makes you feel safe and special and, yes, taken care of.

Unfortunately it took his death to help me realize something super significant about my Dad: he was the man he wanted to be. Though there were many ways he ticked me off and disappointed me, Dad achieved exactly what he set out to do in life: be a good Father.

Just like in the movies, when Dad knew his time with us was nearing an end, he called Larry over and whispered in his ear. He asked him to promise to take care of me. I didn’t feel one tinge of anger; only gratitude and love.

My Dad was simply doing his job.

So…here are just a few of the things I learned from my Dad. You probably know many, but perhaps one or two will help calibrate  your life compass as they do for me every day.

  • Use soap.
  • Turn off the lights.
  • Don’t pet stray dogs.
  • Matzo Brei is best with sugar.
  • Don’t change lanes in an intersection.
  • There is no free lunch.
  • Good neighbors come in all colors.
  • Don’t work on Yom Kippur.
  • Life is hard.
  • Keep your word.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Sarcasm is an undervalued form of communication.
  • Don’t take the last ice cube and not refill the tray.
  • Your integrity is everything.
  • Regardless of what someone does, if they work hard they deserve respect.
  • Work for justice.
  • You get what you pay for.
  • There are many people suffering and you can’t ignore them.
  • Respect is earned.
  • Work hard and you will be rewarded.
  • Be fair.
  • Be kind.
  • Be grateful.
  • Take care of people you love.
  • Do your best.

And maybe the best lesson he taught me, which I almost learned too late: I am loved.

Rest in peace, Pops. I love you too.

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  1. Sharon says

    Thanks, Bobbi! I was touched to tears reading what you wrote about your Dad. You were lucky to have such a Dad, with a strong identity. I loved my Dad, but he worked all the time, & I learned, (& am unfortunately still learning) to be the last thing on the list. I don’t even know if my Dad’s alive, nor my Mom. I have his quiet, reflective, intuition, seeing what’s really important, his intellect, respect for the arts, education, and having a family present. He’s been legally blind for over 30 years (if he still lives), & therefore depends entirely on my mother, & has become dependent on her.” As I was not respected, I had to cut off from them 10-15 years ago, for my survival. Today, I like men who are quiet & reflective/intellectual, but who are also more masculine (not macho). Times spent with my father were gems, but stolen moments. I want a man who has the same good qualities as my father, but who also has more time for me, will make my feel special, no matter how long we’re together….

  2. Katie says

    Lost my dad when I was 15 – (41 years ago) and miss him to this day. He was a good, honest hard working man who loved us (even though he sometimes had trouble saying it. I am a far better woman because I had this man in my life.

  3. says

    Wow! First, thanks Bobbi for graciously sharing this post.

    How does this post make me feel?

    Well, my emotions towards my father are very complicated. On the one hand, he adopted me when I was a toddler, as he’s not my bio-dad. I appreciate this, and all the benefits that came with being his daughter when he was in the military, traveling the world. But as far as a legacy, as far as how he informs how I make romantic choices, it’s not good.

    My father taught me to fear men. He taught me that men are wolves, only looking to steal my virginity and use me. He actually told me that if I lost my virginity before marriage, I’d be a piece of used beef, and no man would want to marry me. True story.

    A few years later, my father followed my mother in developing a crack addiction that would continue off and on into the mid 2000s, at the expense of all that he knew was right, and at the expense of his children. Last I spoke to him, he was in jail, in his mid 50s. I don’t know if he’s still alive. At this point, I don’t want to know.

    Point is, it’s only because of reading your blog posts, and taking your advice, that I learned that I gravitated towards weak, abusive men, because I never learned how to discern the qualities of a strong, solid man.

    I learned fear. I learned that the “tender” men were the way to go. I didn’t realize until this past year that the “tenderness” and the “softness” I was picking up in men was because these guys were broken, and they had mommy issues…just like my father. Funny how that works!

    I’m not angry, although it might read like I am. Well, maybe a little. I just needed a safe “platform” to share these thoughts. They’re appropriate for what you discuss and really, I’ve been learning so much about myself, and what a solid man looks like, and what he should feel like.

    I’ve also learned that it’s up to me to become the WOMAN who can attract that type of man. I’ve learned that the man I want WILL show up, and step up. He’ll be a man whose life decisions I can trust. I’ll be able to step down and bask in my feminine energy. I won’t have to be strong for both of us.

    Honestly, this is a foreign concept for me and it scares me. But I’m willing to try. Thanks for letting me hang around. :)

    • says

      Hi Terr, All I can say is “Three Cheers for YOU!” Your younger years most certainly handed you a lot to overcome and you have made a CHOICE to create a happy life for yourself. I’m so proud of you and in deep admiration. This can be hard at times, but absolutely DO-Able! You are proof of it. It’s OK (and understandable) to be scared, but that doesn’t have to equate being stuck in your crap, right? It just means you go forward with a little fear…but you go forward. Thank you for letting me know that my work has helped you so much. I’m honored that you hang around here! Be good to yourself, Bp

  4. CATHI says

    I didn’t think my father was capable of loving. I judged him from my prospective on what I thought “love” was. Then I had a daughter and things changed. My father loved her as no one thought he could, he even gave up smoking for her, but it was too late. Right before he passed he said it was because she would stare into his eyes and smile , showing that she loved him unconditionally for who he was. Sometimes we don’t see what is under our nose until it is too late.

    • says

      Wow Cathi, what a powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing it. I’m happy for you that you learned this lesson before your Dad passed. I bet he saw your understanding, and knew your heart. I, too, took quite some time to understand my Dad’s deep love for me. It was such a gift to know that he knew I loved him.

  5. Kathy says

    This was so sad, beautiful and true all at the same time.
    It touched my soul…thank you for sharing Bobbi…
    You give hope to me that maybe, just maybe its not too late to build a healthy relationship and find love:)
    Kathy in Idaho

  6. Billie Haynes says

    Hello, Bobbi,
    Wow! I enjoyed reading your post regarding “Lessons I learned from my dad.” I lost my dad, when he was only 51, and I was 26. I was in a bad marriage, that ended soon after my dad passed. My father was also from the 50’s; silent, strong, not very talkative about his emotions, or things that bothered him. Yet, he was very hard-working, loyal, funny, God-fearing, and loving. I wondered for many years, if he loved me, because he wasn’t very affectionate. But, after he died, I realized how much I missed him, how much I had yet to learn from his wisdom and just his being present in my life. In looking back, now that I’m 54, I believe I have been subconciously looking for what i miss in my father, in possible love relationships with other men. Now I know I’ll never have that with them,because my father’s love was unconditional. Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful article!!

    • says

      Thanks for your note, Billie, Your Dad sounds a lot like mine; a good dad indeed. I know what it’s like when they aren’t open about their feelings. You kinda wonder if they love you. They show us in their own way though, and aren’t we lucky that we finally understand that?

      I hope you remember that about the men you choose for a partner: People, especially men, show their love in ways that can be quite different than how we might. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect total unconditional love from a man, because I believe that we have the right (and the need) to have expectations and boundaries with our partner. But we can come awfully (and joyfully) close! Don’t stop going for that! Hugs, Bp

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