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I never knew my dad was full of such wisdom.

I don’t think I listened to him enough to notice … until recently. When I was younger, my dad was tough — he worked hard, had lots of side jobs and plenty around the house to keep him busy, along with 4 kids. On Saturday mornings when he had bills spread out on the dining table, I knew enough to stay away from him for the day.

He told bad Dad-jokes that made me and my brother roll our eyes around our friends. And with his thick Spanish accent, when he got really excited about a joke even we couldn’t understand what he was saying. We’d laugh along with him and later try to decipher the punch line.

He used to scold us if we were told to do house work and weren’t doing it to his expectations,

If you’re not going to do it right, then don’t do it at all!

I’m sure he’s not the only parent to ever use that line. Oh how tempted we were to stop what we were doing and just walk away, we’d make eye contact but we were never brave enough to bear the wrath we knew he could deliver. So we stepped it up and did the job the way he wanted.

During basketball seasons all through junior high and high school, he’d drive me to practice on Saturday mornings and he’d talk the whole way there. I’d say, ‘uh-huh’ when I was supposed to or ask a question to keep him going, but I don’t remember listening much. I remember wishing he’d hurry up and get there so I could go play ball.

We didn’t have the kind of relationship where I’d go to him for advice and ask him what to do. Actually, I rarely told him much at all, and when I did, it was just the big things — got a new job, bought a car, buying a house, etc. I didn’t tell and he didn’t ask. And we were okay with this …

Until a few years back when he needed surgery. My daughterly instincts kicked in … I was there, I did the research, I spoke to the doctors, I helped make sure he had his meds in order and I called 911 when he couldn’t breathe that first night home from the hospital. We were in the ER waiting room sometime around 4 in the morning. The things you see in an ER waiting room at 4 am are very interesting … but that’s a whole other story.

My dad kept his cool the whole time. He laughed about it, he reassured us that he was okay and he recuperated. And from then on, our relationship seemed to mature. We spoke more and I started to listen.

My parents just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. I spent the week with them in Puerto Rico. The night of their anniversary as we were getting ready to leave for dinner, my oldest brother asked, “So dad, what’s the secret to 60 years?”

He said 3 things:

Do things together — not apart.

And for 60 years, he’s tried to do a lot of things with my mom. Of course work and other commitments made them do things on their own, but since retirement they do almost everything together.

Then he said,

Don’t play with fire.

Of course that one makes sense. And he followed with,

And if she says, ‘I want a new watch,’ buy her a watch.

My brother and I looked at each other and we laughed as he brought his voice up a few octaves and imitated my mom,

“I need a new watch.”

“Why, what happened to your old watch?”

“Oh I don’t know, I can’t find it.”

“Okay, then let’s go buy a watch.”

We all laughed and I got it. He wants to make her happy and keep her happy … that’s his recipe for a long and successful marriage. I guess I need to pay closer attention to what he says. I never realized he was full of such wisdom.  And now that I know his secret, I also know why my mom has so many watches.

Wedding day picture 60 years ago

Happy Anniversary to my parents!