3 Lessons My Father Taught Me

My father, Curtis Guise, died on October 12, 2022. I write this (coincidentally) exactly two months from that day. He was a great father and person, and I want to share three of the most lessons my father taught me.

Lesson #52: Talk to birds.

1. Be Lighthearted and Make Others Smile

Life is too short to be overly serious and stressed out. My dad certainly thought so. He was a master at delivering canned jokes and sayings at an alarming rate.

“Take the rest of the day off.”
“I want a full report on my desk by Monday.”
“I’m taking a nap. I’m leaving you in charge.”
“I thought you said this was gonna be fun and easy.”

Those are just a few of many. We (his kids) heard them all 392,139 times and would often roll our eyes, but others hearing them for the first time would often smile and laugh. They’re all lighthearted and put people at ease.

As I grew older, I realized that dad didn’t say these strictly to annoy us, he also said them because he saw how they made others smile. And you would be surprised at the impact a smile can have on a person who’s down. It’s so easy to focus inward, but I’ve seen that the more I open up and see what I can do for others, the better they AND I feel.

2. Use Your Imagination

I told the following story at my dad’s celebration of life with family and friends.

Dad was a frequent jogger in his 30s and 40s, and would often take several of the kids and cousins with him. On those jogs and elsewhere in nature, he developed a “Brave Warrior” points system in which we would get rewarded for doing brave things. For example, he would offer my sister and I 100 Brave warrior points for jumping into freezing cold water. And we would do it! These points were worth roughly one cent each, plus bragging rights. I’m not sure which one was more valuable.

On one now-famous walk, he awarded a group of us brave warrior points for saving a skunk who had fallen into a gated drain. We created a makeshift ramp for him and surprisingly, we all smelled okay afterwards.

Dad just made up these “brave warrior” points, and we loved them! There’s a big difference between “jump into that cold water” and “jump into that cold water to earn brave warrior points!” They were essentially the same thing plus or minus a dollar, yet the latter filled a child’s mind with wonder and excitement.

Imagination is a powerful tool. Use it to make life more exciting and to reach your goals.

3. Nobody is Better Than Anyone Else

This is what my sister focused on in her speech about dad. Dad didn’t merely tell us this with words, he lived it. Whenever we came across homeless or needy people, he would give them money or food. It’s easy to be cynical these days and say, “they’re just going to buy cigarettes and booze with it.” And indeed, I once had a homeless man turn me down when I offered my lunch. I thought, “he’s supposedly hungry and yet the lunch I was excited to eat isn’t good enough for him?”

Bad actors and fakers aside, there are genuine people of need out there. And these are fellow humans. I think there are two ways to perceive humanity. One way is to see people as equally human and deserving of happiness, food, and shelter. The other way is to measure a person’s worth by their accomplishments, social status, looks, or net worth. My dad valued others as much as or more than himself, and I think he was right to do so.

Giving is fraught with risk. How many charities are corrupt fronts to make executives wealthy? How many fake panhandlers are swindling as a full-time job? Do your due diligence, of course. But also consider that giving is not an exchange. When you give, you shouldn’t necessarily expect a return, including the person or company using the funds in the exact way you desire. Giving just to give is good.

If you want to give wisely, check out charity watch’s list to find responsible organizations.

Conclusion: Lessons My Father Taught Me

As a final aside to honor my father, I want to mention that he was a firefighter (truck driver) for 20 years and lifeguard for several more. He saved a lot of lives. He was a hero to his family and a real life hero!

It’s strange to lose a parent. You know them for as long as you exist and then suddenly they are gone. And your perspective of them changes a lot as you grow older. Those who are raised well and with love tend to get more thankful in retrospect as they mature.

Death is never pretty. In my dad’s final days, his lung cancer had spread and created intense pain. It was brutal, but dad still found the strength to frequently thank us for helping him. I’ll never forget that. And here come the tears. I love you, dad.

What lessons has your father taught you? Even if you consider your father a net negative in your life, there are plenty of lessons to be learned. Some of the lessons my father taught me are what not to do. That’s how it is with parents, right? We try to learn from what they do right and also from their mistakes. Keep the good stuff and avoid the mistakes!

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