My father gave Ted Talks before Ted Talks were cool. What can I say? He was a man ahead of his time. Sure, they weren’t given in a large auditorium, and usually only to an audience of one, but those talks were the anthem of my childhood.
Each night he would sit at his table in the kitchen and contemplate life while listening to the likes of George Jones. He was a quiet man who enjoyed simple pleasures but lived a complicated existence. And those nights at that table, I was the singular guest more often than not.
Now, at the time it was just an eye-rolling, mind-numbing lecture from my dad. I was young, the kitchen chairs were uncomfortable and what I really wanted was to be in the front room with my siblings eating ice cream and watching 80’s sitcoms, but instead I was stuck in that chair listening to my father explain passionately what I should or should not be doing.
I was a pretty good kid, so most of our talks involved my over-consumption of sugary delights and my unwillingness to make better choices and eat celery. He was opposed to my relationship with Little Debbie snacks and devoted most of his time and energy … and my childhood to expounding on the evils of the Swiss Roll.
If I am being honest, I resented those Ted Talks a lot at the time. They didn’t motivate or inspire me, and it was only after he died that I became grateful for them. Because through them I spent enormous amounts of time in conversation with my father. Amid the lectures we laughed and talked, and he told me stories about his life. I got to know him, to really know him as much as a daughter could. More importantly I got to understand his heart, and if you knew my dad you would know that was where the gold was found.
He wasn’t great with choices or money or social situations, but his heart … it was a diamond. So, after he passed away, I became grateful for the time spent on that uncomfortable vinyl chair in the kitchen with him.
Just recently I discovered another layer to the Bob Barker lecture series that made me wish I could hug him and tell him thank you.
You see, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I’ve been known to treat my son to his own set of Ted Talks, though usually with much more comfortable seating. I’ve spent hours lecturing him and he takes it like a champ. But as he has grown, I’ve tried to squelch my inclination to lecture him, especially now that he is a man. But for a momma bird that is a hard habit to break. So, I take to journaling those lectures, praying a lot and trying to get it all out of my system before dumping it on him.
But the other day I was really fired up about something that concerned me. I felt so passionately about it that no journaling or prayer curbed my need to give him an ear full. I was mere inches from letting him have it. And then in the midst of my passion and fervor I was given the sweetest glimpse of my dad.
See, I was about to do to my son the very thing my dad did to me once again. When I thought about the ‘why.’ I realized that the reason I want to scream or shake some thought into Brayden’s life is not because I think he is incapable, or terrible, or a failure. In fact, it is just the opposite.
I rail and rant and lecture because he is brilliant, and I see the enormity of his potential. I don’t want this little “whatever it is” holding him back from becoming all that he can become.
And when I realized that I came undone.
Because I realized my father’s lecture series was the sweetest sentiment of love and belief in me.
He lectured and talked and yelled and got fiery not because he thought I was a failure, or a disappointment, but because he saw my potential and didn’t want something stupid like a Little Debbie cake to hold me back. He lectured me because he loved me and believed in me, in who I could become.
Maybe it wasn’t the most elegant of Ted Talks. Maybe his passion came out in a less than an ideal way, but truthfully? That describes my talks with my son, but it doesn’t change the fire behind them and that fire is built on love, belief and hope in him.
That realization changed everything for me. Up to that point I had a laundry list of questions I was going to ask my dad the next time I saw him, but that list is gone now, and I only have one thing ... two small words I want to say to him.
Because I am grateful that amid all the turmoil of my childhood I’ve come to realize how much he loved me, believed in me, and did the very best he could with what he had.
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