Dad is My Greatest Teacher

There are a lot of young guys around the world that don’t get a chance to grow up with a father. And because of that, may lack the knowledge of what “being a man” is. At the same time, there are young men growing up that have a father at their disposal and still don’t get valuable life lessons. It’s a shame.

My father died when I was 18 years old during my senior year at high school. He had a blood clot pass in his lung. I remember the day vividly, being woken up at a friend’s house the night after my band played in some far off place. It was a beautiful, sunny, Sunday morning and I remember seeing my family members’ faces as I walked into the hospital. No one really said anything to me but I could hear from their expressions,

“Everything will be OK, bud.”

What happened next is a blur still to this day. I had to deal with the public viewing of my dead father, helping bury him at the funeral, a 21 gun salute, “becoming the man of the house” (or so all my relatives said), and appeasing my weakened mom in the process.

What happened in the next 3 years was something that I choose to describe as being lost. I entered a phase in my life where I was in a semi-touring, semi-serious band and had a terrible outlook on life. I had a problem with everything; from society to myself. I didn’t have any real friends or relationships and just “faked” my way through. I made a ton of terrible decisions, worked a crappy job and was looked down upon by my most of my family because of those terrible decisions.

It was only until I decided to make a drastic change in my life that I could make up for this lost time. Some people go 20 or 30 years without having a bottom in their lives and one day look back and see the wreckage of their past. Luckily, my bottom was at 21. I’ve come to accept this and liken it to what Robert Frost wrote,

“… the best way out is always through.”

He did his best
After my period of being lost, I got very angry at my father for not being what I thought that he should have been in my life. Why did he never teach me to build a fire? Go camping? Teach me other “manly” stuff that every father teaches their son, right?

It took me a while to make my way through the five stages of grief. I was at the anger stage.

After talking to someone that had some more experience with death, life, and resentments I came to realize this: my father did the best he could with the tools that he had to work with. My dad never laid a hand on me or my mom, was at all of my opening nights at the theater when I was young and in plays, took me fishing (when I wasn’t being stubborn and wanted to go), wanted the absolute best for me and my mom, and later in life, indirectly taught me what it is to be a man.

And for that, I can overlook the not teaching me “how to build a fire thing”.

Learning from mistakes
So, what does this have to do with Father’s Day? Other than this post being something that I needed to write, accepting my father for who he was has enabled me to become the man that I truly want to be because of my learning from his mistakes.

Would you touch a hot stove right now? I have a feeling that if you have touched a hot stove in the past and remember the pain of being burnt, you won’t do it. It’s the same idea of learning how to be a man from my father.

If the old man before me did things that were right, then hopefully I pick up those traits. And if he did things that were wrong, I sure as hell need to learn not to do those things. Learning from my dad’s mistakes has helped me develop my own, upgraded “set of tools” that I can use to do my best in life.

Teach me
My dad was one of the greatest teachers I have ever met and he didn’t even try to be or know that he was. There are so many things that I have accomplished since his death that I wish I could share with him. That is the one thing that still chokes me up to this day. But, allowing to let my father live through me, I know that he is with me every step of the way; even when I’m stubborn and don’t want to go fishing.

So, on this Father’s Day, make sure that you understand that your dad does the best he can with the tools that he has. It’s not a father’s job to teach you how to build a fire. It’s your job to learn from him, develop your life’s tools to do your best, and live the life that you want to live.

Chris Smith is a developer, writer, tech enthusiast, and husband. He studies MIS and Computer Science at Penn State Behrend. Chris is also interested in personal productivity and creativity and how to utilize technology to get more things done. Check out his tech writing at where he writes about Android.

Dying Teen’s ‘Bucket list’ Goes Viral

Alice Pyne, a 15-year-old with terminal cancer, recently made a simple blog on which she wanted to document how precious the time she has with her family and friends is. She called it “Alice’s Bucket List” and included notes on the things she hoped she could do before her illness got the better of her.

The British girl’s first blog post was on June 6, 2011. Three days later, the entire Internet is cheering her on, donating to the causes she supports and helping her check off as many of her bucket list items as possible.

It’s difficult to track down exactly how Alice’s list went viral, but we do know that John Woodcock, a member of the British Parliament, raised awareness of her plight during a meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday. We also know that musician Katy Perry and many other celebrities posted about Alice on Twitter over course of the last few days.

Right now, the hashtag #alicebucketlist is climbing Twitter’s worldwide trending topics chart. As it does, one of Alice’s top bucket list items gets just a little bit closer to earning a checkmark — the one that states that she wants everyone to sign up to be a bone marrow donor.

You see, Alice explains that she didn’t create her blog in hopes of profiting from it — she simply made it with her family and friends in mind — but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t excited about the attention and encouraging people to support a cause that is dear to her heart:

So, I was never begging and I don’t need any money but I do love to get your messages and I hope you’ll follow my blog and keep leaving me a message. I will take a camera with me wherever I go and I’ll post photos of everything I do. In return, you can keep asking everyone you bump into to join the bone marrow donation schemes in your country.

While it’s doubtful that every single person out there will offer to become a bone marrow donor, it does seem that a lot of people are inspired by Alice’s story and doing their best to contribute to that particular bucket list item.

Unfortunately that might not be the only wish on the list which likely won’t be entirely fulfilled. Out of the 17 items Alice lists, there are several — such as traveling to Kenya or becoming a dolphin trainer — which she notes she can’t do due to the progression of her illness.

Based on Alice’s blog posts though, she’s not letting such thoughts even enter her mind or get her down. Instead the teen is savoring every beautiful moment she can and challenging the rest of us to consider something we often try to avoid thinking about:

If today was your last day on this earth, how would you spend it?

Note: If you’d like to read more about Alice, you can take a look at her blog. If you’d like to show your support for her goals and causes, then you can share links to her story via social media — use of the #alicebucketlist hashtag is encouraged. If you want to go a step further and become a bone marrow donor, then you can consult DMKS or Be The Match for more information. (Both organizations feed into the National Marrow Donor Program.)

Alice Bucket List: