Some Lessons My Dad Taught Me

There are some special moments with my dad that I recall from time to time. They come back to me when I get into a jam or awkward situation and then think to myself, “…what would my dad do right now?” He was accomplished at many things. Unfortunately I only realized the importance of most of his lessons when I was older and he had passed on. I intend to use some of his words of wisdom my novels. Here are some examples…

“Start Swearing, Start Losing”

I’ve already used this one in my first novel Imperfect. Here is a short piece from chapter twenty-seven of the novel:

Though boxing is a sport that can be harsh and even brutal at times, Mack liked that it was one on one, man on man in the ring with absolutely nowhere to run and hide. You can’t sit it out on a bench when you’re tired or hurt like in hockey or football. You’re either ready and in condition or you’re not. 

It’s a physical as well as mentally demanding sport and you need to be strong in both categories to come out a champion. Mack’s father Matt had taught him that when you’re boxing and you start to swear under your breath, that’s when you start to lose just as in other testy situations in life. There were times when the art and science of boxing reminded Mack of several situations he’d been in while fighting crime. 

So when I’m in a really tough spot, my dad’s words come back to me. ‘Sun on the beach’ is now about as bad as my language gets when I’m really angry (most of the time).

“Play It Cool”

I subscribe to the theory of Type A and B personalities. I’m definitely a Type A. This means that I am competitive, driven, outgoing, ambitious, anxious, pro-active, and yes, impatient. My dear dad knew all that about me. He could see when I had steam coming out of my ears when I was angry about something. That’s when he’d tell me to slow down and “play it cool”. Along with his three words, he would often include others like “count to ten”, “take some deep breaths” and “take one step at a time”. We’ve all heard those, but it’s the “play it cool” words that have had the most soothing impact on me over time. They have saved me from what I believe would have been a lot of hurt if I hadn’t heeded the wisdom of them.

“Don’t Be Afraid of Anyone”

If someone is aiming an AK-47 at you, be afraid. What I’m talking about here though, is not letting a lack of self-confidence make you feel like you’re inferior to anyone.

My dad had to learn to defend himself as a young teen. He was twelve years old in 1931, when his leg was shattered badly while playing hockey. In the ‘dirty thirties’ of the Great Depression life was very tough on just about everyone. My dad had to wear a cast for six months when medical care was scarce and expensive. Those were the growth spurt months into adolescence, and the cast restricted the growth of one leg compared to the other. He ended up with the casted leg being shorter than the other; it was a life sentence. It resulted in a bad limp and no end of hip and other problems that required surgery many years later.

My dad became very proficient at the fighting sports despite his leg issue, for he often needed to defend himself against bullies who picked on him. Any disability in those days was a sign of weakness. He studied Ju-jitsu and became good enough to teach it. He also became a junior boxing champ at a local gym and stayed in shape by rowing miles at a time. He taught me to respect the skills of self-defence, because with it came the self-confidence to stand up to anyone and not be afraid – provided that you were using both your brain and your brawn to take care of business.

In my novel Imperfect, Mack’s sidekick M is confronted one night while walking home from a pool hall. He is stopped on the street by four gang members who are intent on robbing him and inflicting serious bodily harm. While I was writing this scene in the novel, I heard many of my dad’s words come back to me. It made writing this fight scene special. Oh, and of course M wins the confrontation hands down but it’s best to read all about it for yourself!

“You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get!”

It’s probably best to use an example to explain this lesson of my dad to you. We’re not talking about calling on the many forces of the universe here (as in ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, for example). My dad’s advice is very simple: just make sure to ask for what you need or want.

Orange snow plow in actionI was out after a snow storm shoveling the entrance to the driveway at my office. Shoveling the entrance is always the worst part because the snowplows that clean the street always leave a massive pile of hard packed snow right across my driveway. In this case, it was over a foot deep and about a yard wide. I had spent about fifteen minutes laboring with it when I saw a small plow coming down the street at a rapid pace. Without a word, I waved and pointed several times to my driveway entrance. The driver had almost gone by me when to my surprise he stopped and then backed up. In just a few seconds he had plowed the remainder of the entrance to my driveway. “Thanks Dad” I whispered to myself, then waved and shouted to him as he left, “You’re going to heaven for sure buddy!” My dad was right – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

“Master Something You Love To Do”

Last, but certainly not least, is advice that we’ve all heard many times before. There were lots of reasons why my dad couldn’t make a living at what he loved to do most, but he seemed determined that I would be able to do so.

Why did I start to write novels and why do I work so hard to improve at my craft? I’ve enjoyed murder-mysteries since I was a pre-teen, carrying a tattered copy of a Mickey Spillane novel in the back pocket of my jeans. So it was an easy decision for me to dedicate myself entirely to the crime and detective genre. I’m passionate about my professional creative activities and devotion to working as an author. I continue to believe that I’ll never look back with any regrets.

Thanks once again Dad.

Stephen Winn

 

1 Comment

  1. by Tricia Tollins on November 5, 2016  4:54 pm Reply

    Dads are amazing people!

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