Honoring the perfect father

By Tammy Keith Originally Published June 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 14, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.
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I had to decide whether to write about butchering my azaleas or Father’s Day.

I write about my mother all the time, but my dad I only mention from time to time.

He likes it that way.

But I don’t want people to get the impression that I’m not close to him or that he’s not a great father.

It’s just the opposite, really. I’ll never forget a relative saying to me one time, “You think your dad is perfect.”

Why, yes, I do.

I can’t help it if he’s one of those people who is universally liked by everyone who meets him.

He has one of those humble personalities, too. I’ve never heard him brag on himself in my life. In fact, he doesn’t give himself enough credit.

He was in Vietnam, and I wish I’d written down or recorded the stories that he’s told about it, which are few and far between.

He is a great cook, and I would just about sell my soul for his smothered steak.

When he retired from the federal government, my brother and I got to hear his former co-workers talk about how wonderful he was, how smart he was to figure out the rules and regulations, and how he handled the occasional mad farmer with patience, and just how funny our dad was.

He’s the quiet one in the crowd, but he’s always been quick-witted. In our little family, he’s known for his humor. He draws little pictures or writes funny things on grocery lists, the church bulletin, check memo lines and notes.

Family members and (and sometimes neighbors and strangers he sees) get his special nicknames.

When I was growing up, when I’d get a little too big for my britches, he’d simply call me Queenie.

He didn’t lecture me or make me feel bad about myself, but with that simple name, I got the message. I’m not saying it helped, but I knew what he meant.

He also called me a monkey, or Monk. Those are the only nicknames I will reveal.

When I was younger, I didn’t get in trouble much, but a couple of times I remember my dad putting the yardstick in my room and saying, “Think about what you’ve done.” He never used the yardstick on me, but it worked.

When people talk about their dads yelling at or criticizing them, it just makes me sad.

My dad always told me that I could do anything I wanted to. When I’m worrying about something, sweating the small stuff as I always do, I hear his voice saying, “Look down the road.” His point is to think about whether what you’re worried about will matter in a year, or 10 years. It usually won’t.

“Live and let live,” is another phrase I’ve heard from him all my life. Unlike some controlling personalities (that would be me), he doesn’t feel the need to tell anybody else how to live his life. My dad is wise, but he only gives advice when asked, unlike people who can’t wait to give an opinion (that would be me).

The other sage advice he gave me: “Not washing the tires when you wash your car is like taking a shower and putting on dirty underwear.” I don’t wash cars, but I will remember that, if I ever do.

He’s been a great example just by the way he’s lived his life.

He may not be perfect (although I’m not ready to concede that), but he’s the perfect dad for me.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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