Lessons my dad taught me

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I know that I have written many stories about my dad; how he was the most warm-hearted, tender, amazing man I have ever met.

I'd also like to tell you about how fun he was too. My entire life was filled with his adventures and the special ways he shared them with his kids. Here are just a few of my favorite everyday memories.

"STILTS". Dad built a pair of stilts for my best girlfriend and myself. They were made from 2 x 4’s with crutch tips on the bottom. They were very tall and we had days and days of fun racing up and down the street with them.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to be adventuresome.

"WATERMELON SEEDS". Dad loved to entertain us and make us laugh. He was a pro at shooting watermelon seeds across the yard and hitting a target. He was so accurate, he would just tell us what he was aiming for and a spit second later, the seed would be sitting bulls eye.

I'll never forget the look on my sister’s face when he shot one across a picnic table and it landed right in the middle of my sister’s forehead. We all knew this was no accident!

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to enjoy being silly.

"PVC". My dad loved PVC. He made many everyday inventions. If anything needed to be made or modified, he found a way to include PVC. He made many Christmas lawn decorations with millions of lights strung in and around the PVC.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to think outside the box.

"LIBRARIES". Dad took us to the library on Saturday mornings. I'll never forget the happy comfort I felt sitting on his lap and sharing books.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me about the many adventures awaiting just inside a book.

"CLACKERS". Dad had a game that he called "Clackers." All it was was each of us running to get an empty soda can, laying it flat on the ground, and smashing our foot down (in tennis shoes) on top of the can.

When you smashed it, the can would wrap around the bottom of our shoe and hold in place. Then there would be a mad scramble to the corner and back to the porch. As you ran, the cans made this "clickity-clacking” sound, thus the name of the game.

At any given moment, Dad would yell "Clackers!" and everyone would run for a can. This game went right through my childhood .

When I was 17, my family and I were at a hotel in Pismo Beach. Dad yelled "Clacker!" and without skipping a beat, the game was on. Dad and I were circling the pool so many times and laughing so hard we were quite surprised to see that the manager had been called to make us quiet down.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me the value of laughter.

FLASHLIGHTS". Dad loved flashlights. He was just fascinated with them. Every time he went to the store, he'd buy another one.

Every night after dinner, the whole family would go for a walk around the block. Everyone had to have their own flashlight. This tradition was a family favorite and continues today with his children, grandchildren and grandchildren .

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me the value of tradition.

"WHISTLES". My dad loved to whistle. It was a constant around my house and all through his life. It just made him happy. He even made a family whistle that was used very often when we were trying to locate one of the other family members.

I have always been a whistler and it, too, puts me in a happy mood.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me not to be afraid to express my happiness.

"HANKY HAT" My dad always had a neatly-ironed white handkerchief in his pocket. It never stopped amusing us kids to see him pull it from his pocket, tie little knots in each corner, and plunk it down on his scalp to make a perfectly adequate hat to protect him from the sun.

We have many photos of him at picnics, parks and many other occasions with his "hank hat" on.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to be inventive.

Dad taught me to understand that the prize in life is one’s own happiness. He taught me to have a happy life and not be stifled by what anyone else might be thinking. He taught me to be memorable. He taught me to celebrate being funny. He taught me to celebrate me being me.

Gail Earl is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.

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