Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lessons from my Father - part 3

The last part in a 3-part blog on life lessons learned from my Father, Paul Cooper Yarger.  While he may have left this earth, I know at least some of his teachings remain.

Lessons from my Father - part 3

Spare the rod and spoil the child, but use the rod sparingly too - I grew up with parents that spanked their kids.  Misbehaving would earn you a trip to Mom and Dad's bedroom where the punishment was usually administered, and while a firm hand was the normal method of delivery, a wooden spoon, a paddle or a belt could be used as well.  As weird as the next sentence sounds, especially in 2013, I was never abused in my life.  Yes, I was hit with a belt, a paddle and a spoon but it was always done by a loving parent
who was administering a deserved punishment for some egregious behavior on my part.  Sure, in the moments immediately following a spanking, I would mutter and curse and swear how I hadn't deserved the punishment, but even as the redness on my posterior faded, so would my misplaced anger and it would be replaced by the inevitable realization that I had earned the spanking, and that it would likely happen again without some adjustment on my part.  That's not abuse, that's parenting.  My father understood this and I'm sure that he grew up in a household  where corporal punishment was administered, but I suspect that my father used it less than his father, and I used it less than my father.  My father would vary his routine, so that you never knew whether you would be punished by spanking, or when, or with what.  It wasn't uncommon for him to line the perpetrators up, spank the first few only and then send the rest packing with an admonition of "Let that be a lesson to you".  It was a lesson, it showed the quality of mercy and that the threat of punishment can be equal to the actual punishment itself.  He believed in Birthday Spankings too, where he would give you a spanking for each year lived of your life, and I never knew my dad to count
these correctly the first time or to not finish with "And one to grow on".  My wife thinks the practice is barbaric, but I never did.  My father was also known to occasionally throw in the "Gotcha non-spanking" where he would call you down from your bedroom in the same voice that normally accompanied a spanking, only to offer you a surprise of some kind, a visiting relative, or even ice cream.  I remember a particular incident in Boston where we all filed down expecting a deserved spanking only to be given ice cream, which we all ate with one eye firmly affixed to my father, not really knowing if he was softening us up first or not.  Dad had to spank less as each kid shared his/her horror stories with the next and due to the power of adolescent exaggeration, he attained Keyser Soze status (The Usual Suspects, rent it if you haven't seen it) in both our family and in the neighborhood.  Yes, my dad was loved, but he was also feared.  The right look from my father could quiet a whole room within seconds.  Later in life, when you knew all the rules of the house and my parent's expectations, a look of disapproval could be an even more effective way to communicate.  I know that I would trade 1,000
The infamous Keyser Soze
spankings for every time I got one of those looks from my father, and I suspect almost every sibling I have, would too.  I spanked my children and you never know if you get the punishment part in proportion to the lesson part right, but I do recall one time, almost immediately after spanking Nolan, where he crawled into my lap to snuggle with me.  That day I got it right. 

It's OK to have a girlfriend or two - To my knowledge my dad lived a completely faithful life as it relates to the marriage to my mother, however, I never knew him to shy away from close relationships with other women, and he found benefits in them.  He flirted shamelessly with my mother's sister, he danced with other women, and he had more
Did you really think I wouldn't use a pic like this?
breakfasts, over time, with our family friend Glenda, than I think he ever had with my mother.  The trick was that the interactions always supplemented his relationship with his spouse, it never supplanted it.   My mother would much rather have dad take his girlfriend out for a 6 am breakfast than to rouse her to get up and ready before 8am.  I suspect that my mother liked it when her husband got attention from other woman at gatherings because she knew where he'd be at the end of that evening and every other one, snuggled up and snoring next to her.  When we were on family trips, and you would see a pretty girl jogging, dad would almost always give 2 short beeps of the horn as we passed her, but I never remember him ogling the girl, he would always be giving a sideways glance at my mother, awaiting her reaction.  I have an exercise girlfriend who helps to keep me in better shape (yes, round is a shape) and I'm sure my wife never minds me going off to be with her either, because she has my mom's instincts for picking men. 

Finish what you start and above all protect the honor and integrity of your name - My Dad wasn't a quitter.  He was taught that if something was worth starting, it was worth finishing, so I never knew him to
A typical 4th degree Knight
give up on a project or job until it was completed to his satisfaction and he passed that lesson along.  I recall him sitting with my mother one time talking about a job that he had bid that had gone sideways and he ended up making little or no money on it. He was a heating, plumbing and electrical contractor at the time, and while it was a hard thing to do, he felt it was the right thing to do, so he completed the job at the agreed upon price and learned his lesson from it.  It was that kind of honest dedication that kept the phone ringing many, many years after he had shut down his business.  When he joined the Knights of Columbus he was as active a member as you could be, in spite of his many other obligations and rose to the order of the 4th degree.  When he worked in a union shop, he became the steward or the union representative.  When we started a job or a sport, or joined an organization, we were encouraged to participate fully and to rise the highest level that we could.  One winter morning I agreed to shovel a neighbor's driveway and negotiated a pittance to do it and instantly regretted it, as I started the job.  I tried to come back in, but Dad had me bundle up and go back and finish what I had agreed to do.  Dad felt that it was your obligation and duty to do no less than your best and he felt it reflected on your honor and integrity and your good name if you didn't.  This was the last lesson he passed along to his children as they prepared to depart his house.  Dad gave a plaque to each of this boys (not sure if the girls got one too?) with a poem penned by Edgar Guest, the people's poet, on it.  To comment after such an eloquent and moving piece would only detract from it, so I'll simply finish this blog, about the lessons learned from my dad, with it. 

Your Name

You got it from your father,

t'was the best he had to give,

And right gladly he bestowed it

It's yours, the while you live.

You may lose the watch he gave you

and another you may claim,

But remember, when you're tempted,

to be careful of his name.


It was fair the day you got it,

and a worthy name to bear,

When he took it from his father

there was no dishonor there.


Through the years he proudly wore it,

to his father he was true,

And that name was clean and spotless

when he passed it on to you.


Oh there's much that he has given

that he values not at all,

He has watched you break your playthings

in the days when you were small.

You have lost the knife he gave you

and you've scattered many a game,

But you'll never hurt your father

if you're careful with his name.

It is yours to wear forever,

yours to wear the while you live,

Yours, perhaps some distant morn,

another boy to give.

And you'll smile as did your father,

with a smile that all can share,

If a clean name and a good name

you are giving him to wear.


- Edgar A. Guest

1 comment:

Brother Mike said...

Good job Bill