My father, much like me, is not an educated man. He knew his job and he did it well, but it was all ‘On-the-Job’ and ‘If-you-hurt-yourself-you’re-doing-it-wrong’ type of schooling. But, despite his limited education, he taught me a lot of things.
My Dad taught me the importance of family, and that if someone reaches out to you for help, it is imporant to reach back. He taught me that manners go a long way; that doors should be held open, rides should be given, and other peoples tires ought be changed on the side of a snowy highway. He taught me that you catch more flies with a little honey, but that sometimes you have to punch a man in the face when the prick has it coming. He taught me that it’s okay to kill something and eat it, but that real men are never cruel for the sake of it, and you can never, ever, stand by with your thumb in your ass while someone else lets their cruelty run free.
I think that’s where the face punching comes in.
Of the many things my Dad taught me, something that stuck with me, like snot pasted on a door knob, was that books – stories – were important, and should be given a piece of your time.
We did not have much money when I was growing up. We weren’t flat broke – the mortgage was always paid on time, there was always food in the fridge, and I got a new pair of running shoes the week before starting school – but there weren’t any vacations that you couldn’t drive to in a couple of hours, and I didn’t get a new dirt bike for my birthday. But my Dad would always reach into his wallet and pull out some cash when I wanted a book.
My father has likely never seen the inside of a university, but he was well-read. The floor to ceiling bookshelf in our living room had dog-eared copies of “Of Mice and Men”, “The Old Man and the Sea”, and big books of poetry by people like Robert Service. My dad always had a book on the go – quite often something by Stephen King – and would always make time to read to me when I clambered in his lap with my favourite blanket and a beat up copy of “The Hobbit”.
While my Dad didn’t have a lot of schooling, he was of the opinion that people who didn’t read were ignorant, and so he encouraged me to figure out what kind of stories I liked, and then to sit my ass down and read them.
I learned to love a good story from a very young age, which led me to want to write them when I grew older.
Then, as I started to struggle my way through my first novel, and found it very difficult, two more of my old man’s lessons made their importance apparent: You need to have a little “stick-to-it-iveness” when things get rough in your life, and “If you spent as much time just doing what you need to as you did fucking whining about it, you’d be done already.”
It was with these words ringing through my empty head that I finished a novel length piece of writing…and then got it published.
So, to my Dad, and every other dad who read to their children, and encouraged their jackass kids to do something difficult, thanks very much.
I (we) wouldn’t have done it without you.