As I took my daily walk I spied a man placing an extension ladder against the side of his two-storied house. He was getting ready to climb when I noticed the angle of the ladder was all wrong. That ladder’s going to tilt backwards like you see in the movies, I thought to myself, struggling with the urge to tell him so. Luckily, the man stepped onto the ladder and realized this for himself. He got back down and adjusted the ladder. Safety first.
I chuckled to myself as those words ran through my brain. Where in the world did I learn about extension ladders? From Dad, of course. Dad climbed ladders for a living- as a DC Fireman and a part-time house painter. Dad worked two jobs to support his wife and six children.
Dad taught many lessons, but the most important was safety first. We used seat belts before any of our neighbors. Lap belts were often pushed aside or buried in the seats in friend’s cars, but Dad insisted we wear them each time we got into the car. Two or three kids shared a belt, but that was considered safer than no restraint at all.
Dad never allowed us to be in the yard when he was mowing. We were to play in the front when he mowed the back yard. We were not allowed to ride our bikes without having closed toed shoes on our feet- even in the summer time, and no riding on someone’s handlebars!
Dad taught us to respect others. We were not allowed to play in someone else’s yard without permission, and we were to keep our shouting to a minimum during the dinner hour as to not to disturb neighbors ( everyone ate with windows open during the summer months.)
Dad taught us to respect other people’s property and possessions. We were not allowed to “borrow” other kid’s toys, bikes etc.
Dad taught us manners.
On the rare occasion we all went out to a restaurant to eat, Dad insisted we sit quietly, with napkins on our laps and talk softly. Other diners often stopped to comment on how well-behaved we were.
We were taught to use utensils correctly, carry hankies, keep our shoes shined, faces washed and hair combed. Yes sir, No ma’am , please and thank you always.
My siblings can tell you that we were only allowed to answer the phone after we learned the drill, “Talbert’s residence, this is Annette speaking.” For years after I moved away and began living on my own, I would slip and answer my phone with, “Talbert’s residence” before catching myself.
My siblings and I learned our lessons well enough to teach our own kids the same courtesies. Our kids learned to speak politely to adults, learned table manners, and of course carried on the family motto: Safety First.
Thanks Dad for taking care of us. Happy Father’s Day.