A weekend that begins with Juneteenth, proceeds into West Virginia Day, and ends with Father’s Day should provide plenty of material for writing a column, but anything written about the first two days would be based much on the person honored on the third.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to win the kid lottery by finding out you’ve got a parent as ridiculously curious about the world as you are — and therefore willing to answer (or help find the answer to) the endless questions that come pouring out.
Because Dad valued learning, exploring and growing, I got history and social studies lessons at home and during our travels that featured the kind of stuff simply not taught in the history books purchased by a small-town West Virginia elementary school in the 1980s. I got the WHOLE story about the Civil War — including why some folks felt such comfort in referring to it as the War of Northern Aggression and a fight for “state’s rights.” He didn’t white-wash history.
And he didn’t mince words about the confusing, mixed-up story of our home state. Yes, we are proud of a lot of our heritage; but not everything that has gone on in these hills and valleys has been worth bragging about. He taught me how to have an eye for … nonsense … (I’m sure you can guess the word he uses), and call it out. Hiding the truth is not a mark of pride or loyalty. If you must be dishonest with yourself or others to shore up support for a thing, it is only proof that the thing is not worthy of support.
If there is work to be done, do it. If you can fix it yourself, fix it. If you don’t know, say you don’t know — and then learn more. Stand up for what is right, no matter how uncomfortable that is.
And, if all else fails, go for a really long hike in the woods.
My job is not one of physical labor, but it can be mentally exhausting. I would not have the strength to get it done without what he taught me — still teaches me.
(And, by the way, it’s funny to talk about mental toughness regarding this man, and then watch my niece break it all down and wrap him around her finger … but that’s another story. She, too, is learning at his feet, and will be a force to be reckoned with.)
It is opportunities like this weekend that bring me some sadness that so many kids do not have the same kind of guidance and encouragement on days like Juneteenth and West Virginia Day. Imagine what a difference it would make if learning, questioning, listening and working toward doing what is right was just a part of every kid’s family life.
Thank goodness for the teachers and mentors out there doing their best to provide what they can.
And thank goodness I grew with so much of it.
Happy Father’s Day, then, to all those out there filling the role of dad; but especially to mine. I would not be who I am without him.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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