My dad has always been a frugal person and for good reason. He grew up on a farm, his family had little means and there were four boys, which meant making due however they could. There were a lot of hand-me-downs, a lot of handmade things and not a lot of extras, if any at all. Days consisted of chores, school and/or work, usually both, and maybe a little horseplay in between with him and his three older brothers. I’ve heard a few entertaining stories over the years, mostly about the boys finding trouble or letting trouble find them and I’m sure that many tales have been purposely left untold. That’s okay, everyone is entitled to keep some things to themselves. Even dads.
When my parents got married, they managed to purchase a house after saving up enough beforehand to put a down payment on my childhood bungalow. My dad worked hard as a farmer/gravel truck driver who also hauled snow in the wintertime, much to my mom’s chagrin as that often left her alone on the coldest, snowiest days with three little kids to look after. She didn’t drive back then either, but they probably couldn’t have afforded a car for her anyway. Times were definitely challenging! We also made due with hand-me-downs and homemade things, but we always had food on the table and a roof over our heads. My dad reminded us often that both of those things, food and shelter, were privileges in life never to be taken for granted. It translated.
Coming from very little wealth means that you have to learn to speak up for yourself, plain and simple. If you want something, you have to work hard for it and you have to ask for it. As a result, there isn’t a deal that my dad hasn’t struck up over his eighty some years. His tenacity and his ability to social network the old-fashioned way–in person–is remarkable. It is likely that he could have been the very first walking, talking Facebook. I’m not kidding! It doesn’t hurt that he is a very likable guy. Everywhere we used to go, he would seem to know at least one person, if not many, and even if he didn’t recognize a face, he would soon strike up a conversation with virtually anyone, no matter their class, colour, gender or religion. I’ve literally watched him walk up to a Jamaican lady at a local market in Ochos Rios, dressed as traditionally as one might imagine, sidle on up to her (my dad, the farmer) at her clothing stand, and lean his ear in to make out her thick accent as he inquired about her business, her kids, her home and everything in between. Truly amazing! While I didn’t always appreciate my dad’s gift for gab since it would take us forever to finish the most basic of errands, the older I got, the more I began to admire his artform. I’m still in awe at how, time and again, he would and does manage to keep someone’s attention in knowing a little bit about everything (as in the case of his newfound Caribbean friend) and a lot about some things, namely any sort of tool or machinery. He is a farmer after all and while his traditional schooling was finished at the tender age of fourteen, he gained something far greater–many decades of experience in this thing called life making him far more than just book smart. He’s seen, been through and done a lot in his lifetime, with the most extravagant likely being our trip to Europe some fourteen years ago, but that matters not.
I truly don’t know whether or not my dad was ever considered shy as a child, but based on my forty some years with him, you wouldn’t know it if he had been. I think it is most likely that he’s always been a people person to some degree. But, here’s the really special thing about my dad’s infectious personality and infamous ability to talk: his conversations, even with mere strangers, always extend beyond just the simple exchange of niceties, even if the other person doesn’t necessarily intend it that way. In other words, my dad can keep you captivated by his questions and the genuine way in which he wants to get to know you and the fact that he actually cares about your answers. A quality that is hard to find anywhere, let alone on the real Facebook. I very much appreciate this quality in him as his daughter, especially all of these years later. If I am talking to him, or if you were, be it in person (his favourite obviously) or over the phone, I can guarantee you that he is or would be genuinely interested in what you or I have to say, and in return, you can expect that he would be truly listening to every word. Undoubtedly, this is the very reason why he is so well-liked; without him even realizing so, his genuine interest in people and their stories ultimately validates who they are and that they matter, no matter what. I would say that that there is no other gift worth sharing more than that one. Little does he know how much we could all learn from him– a poor farm boy turned husband, father and genius of people! Yes, my dad, the farmer, gravel truck driver, and… genius.