Instructional Love

Instructional Love

Fathers often show love by what they know. Sometimes it is “instructional love.

This post was inspired by a story heard on an NPR segment called American Life. This one is not about eldercare nor advocacy, not about crisis or planning or NAVIGATE NC. It’s about showing love.

In the NPR segment, the daughter was to leave for London as part of her college studies and she knew there was something important, something provisional in nature inside a box given to her by her father. He had prepared it for her and gave it to her before his death. He’d cautioned her not to open the box unless the need was indeed real as he had left something important for her inside.

As the daughter was preparing for her London trip (and here is what really got my attention and I know I should not judge…) she decided that she really needed to go TANNING before she left. The decision was made to open the box. Inside she discovered the $200.00 her father had left for her nestled among precious family memorabilia.

Any value judgment on the daughter aside, Dad was doing what he knew to do, what he could do and what was important for him to convey. A father’s care may often be by showing what they know, caring by instruction.

Some fathers helped teach us to drive. Others guided us by helping out with taxes or offering commentary and advice as we applied for and began our first jobs.

My father showed love with instruction. He did it with fire drills. We as kids were taught with role-play to feel the door for heat and never to open it. We learned to keep low to the floor if there was smoke. We could size up our escape route, and we each knew where our designated meeting place was outside every home we lived in.

One summer my father allowed me to accompany him on a rare walk down the beach at night. It seemed he wanted to make sure that the young fellow who had invited my sister over to play board games with his family was doing just that — playing games, and with his parents. (They were.)

Years later when I finally became a car owner, I would happen upon Dad checking my oil and looking critically at my tires. A tire gauge showed up the next Christmas along with a (uh, er,) fashionable, smokin’- hot sun visor extender set. My father reminded me that he was aware of my having to drive five hours westbound into the sun whenever I returned to college from a visit home.

A 30-year Human Resources professional, he proofed my resumes and helped me with verbiage as I wrote cover letters. I think of him every time I write “Enclosed is my xxx for your review.”

Dad’s joy and his instruction about showing love also came in the form of flowers. He’d trim a rose for my mother or arrive with a gardenia to be floated in a dish of water. We’d often find him bringing a bloom inside, precious cargo. If he knew an adult daughter was coming by, he would wrap a few in a paper towel and bind them up in a little plastic baggie with a rubber band to travel home with us.

All this is not to say a father would not go outside what he knew for the sake of instructional love. I cannot tell you the number of times I sampled the results of his efforts to freeze his favorite summer fruit, cantaloupe. Memorable, but not successful.

A friend shared with me that his father never really seemed to know how to be around kids. Always working or on the road his father had not been in the picture much. One year my friend was given a baseball mitt by his father. The mitt he’d purchased had proven to be for the wrong hand. Since they’d never played ball together his father didn’t know much about equipment. The gift was significant to my friend nonetheless, as it conveyed a father’s wish that his son learn and enjoy a popular sport.

This year and every year at Fathers Day, I will pause and remember instructional love. Now that I think of it I have been the lucky recipient of quite a bit from my father and other significant figures in my life.

Fathers show love by what they know (or maybe don’t). It’s instructional love.

Image courtesy of photostock/

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