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JOHN EGGERS: What I learned from my dad

My dad was born in 1917 and just recently turned 97. He still lives in his own home and goes to church every Sunday. He receives meals on wheels, enjoys reading, visiting and doing word search puzzles. He made the trip to the deer camp last November. Other than his walking and hearing, his health is very good.

After being around him for so many years it's not easy to summarize what I learned from him. Where do you start?

All of us have thought about what we learned from our fathers at one time or another. Fathers are very influential people in our lives — maybe at the top of the list. The influence of fathers has no time line. We take their lessons to the grave. This is why we cherish our fathers and the lessons they tried to teach us.

Dad retired in his late '50s from a life of banking and doing bookkeeping for a couple of businesses. However, he continued to do income tax for people into his 90s. Why did he do this? I never asked him but I think all of his clients trusted him, they counted on him and he just had a hard time saying "no" to people who needed him. My dad taught me to do your best, to not let people down when they are counting on you.

My dad and mom had many friends. They enjoyed life to the maximum if that is possible. They would get together monthly to have what they called "pot luck." Often the same group would meet after church on Sunday mornings and sit and visit. They truly knew the meaning of friendship. My dad taught me to value your friends.

My first experience with the out-of-doors was with my father. He would take my brother and me hunting and fishing throughout the year. Those were the best of times. There is something unparallel to being out in the water in a boat or being in a duck slough. Words can't really describe it. You may not catch anything and you may not see any ducks but just being there at that moment in time with your father is something I will always remember. My father taught me not just to appreciate the outdoors but also to value it and take care of it.

Like most families, we took a summer vacation. It might be to Yellowstone or the Black Hills or to a cabin up north. My parents really looked forward to that time together and my brother and I did also. Driving across those western prairies in our 1950 green Chevy, I could imagine myself being a cowboy and riding the range. I didn't say too much. I just looked out the window at all of those new places and hoped that maybe I could repeat the journey someday. My father helped me nurture my desire to travel and explore new places.

Although we didn't travel to any exotic places other than Canada, just seeing something different than my hometown was fun. But just as my parents longed to be home after a few days on the road, I did too. I can still hear my mother saying as we would pull into the driveway, "It sure is nice to be home." My father would reply, "It sure is." My father taught me that there is no place like home. The older I get the more I cherish just being home.

I cannot ever remember not going to church when I was growing up. Since my father's father was a minister, going to church every Sunday was a given. He was very active in the church and served as treasurer for many, many years. To this day he still drives to attend the early Sunday service. Someone is at the door waiting to usher him in. I suppose the best lesson my father taught me was the importance of faith and if you are a member of a church, go!

My father was a hard worker. Even bankers in those days did not make a lot of money and this is why he worked at three other jobs. He was not tight with his money but at the same time he knew how to save and invest. While I was not a good student in managing money or even making money, I know the value of hard work and I think he is pleased about my work ethic.

Neither my dad nor my mom attended college. Dad was in the service during World War II and when he was discharged he went back to work at the bank. He could have used the GI Bill to enroll but he had a job waiting for him and he enjoyed banking so the need for college was not there. For both my brother and me, it never occurred to us not to go on to college after high school. We just went. I think Dad realized that times were changing and that earning a college degree was the best alternative. In his own way, he taught us the value of a college education.

I could mention many other lessons my father taught me. He was and still is a stickler for taking care of things. To this day he enjoys reading and always has magazines and books around the house. When something is broken, he has it fixed. He takes pride in trying to have the best looking yard in town. He also takes pride in the way he dresses, the way he presents himself to others, and, he, like my mother, right or wrong, he still worries, although not as much, about what the neighbors think. If you come from a small town, you know what I am talking about.

I was home this past week visiting Dad. As we sat on either side of the kitchen table I was thinking about the time in the not too distant future when we would be doing this for the last time. I know he still enjoys life, he enjoys seeing his children and grandchildren and he enjoys talking about the things around the house that remind him of the days when Mom was still living and when they would get together with the pot luck bunch on a Sunday morning after church.

Admittedly, I have not learned well all of the lessons that Dad tried to teach me, I continue to strive to learn, which, I suppose, is another lesson he taught me. It's important to keep on learning.