Top 10 Lessons From Dad

It’s clear Dad has had a lot to put up with from this gang.

Father’s Day 2021

Like so many dads, my dad taught from the never-published-but-universally-known Fathers Book of Wisdom, which included these standard questions: Does money grow on trees? Were you born in a barn? Are we heating/cooling the outdoors? If so-and-so jumped off a cliff, would you do that, too?

He added his own insights, which my siblings and our kids have grown up hearing. One of our favorites: “It’s all going to the same place.” That’s what you’ll hear if you question why he’s mixing together all the food on his plate.

This year for father’s day, I want to share some other fun lessons from Tom Vanskike, whom we all called Daddy until we were raising kids of our own.

  1. Help them pack.

This is an old-school parenting hack, for you newer parents out there. Your kid threatens to run away? Okay. Help them pack. I said I was running away when I was about 8, and dad got out an ugly old flowered green suitcase for me. That came to mind almost 30 years later when my own kid needed some space, and I followed dad’s example.

2. If you can’t beat ’em, hide from ’em.

When my brother Andy and I were adolescents and stuck together too much during the summer, we fought like cats and dogs, usually over control of the TV station. In rural Missouri in the early 80s, this required going outside and turning the pole that held the antennae, to change the direction it pointed. After a particularly long battle and multiple trips outside to turn the antennae, we just pummeled each other. My brother was shirtless, and when he walked away from me, I raked my fingernails down his bare back from his neck to his hips. Immediately afterward, I needed protection from the oncoming assault and suddenly wondered where Dad was. After several trips through the house, calling for him, I found him: Lying on the floor on the side of his bed where I couldn’t see him from the doorway, his eyes closed, his hands folded over his chest. “Daddy? What are you doing?” “Just waiting for you two to be done,” he replied. It was just spooky enough to silence my brother and I both.

3. Don’t let your brains fall out.

This one may have only been said once, but I’ve never forgotten it. He’s a little skeptical of people being “so open minded that their brains fall out.” I mean, I like being open-minded, but this is still a killer phrase that deserves some points.

4. Question what you really need.

You “need” some cute new shoes, or you “need” a newer, shinier, fancier whatever? When Dad ponders how necessary something isn’t, he says, “I need that like I need another hole in my head.”

5. Take care of what you have.

This is probably demonstrated most with anything that has a motor, be it the vacuum cleaner, appliances, or automobiles. It’s the reason Mom and Dad have had the same washer and dryer over 30 years. Name another guy who has a power-washer adapter for the blade on his riding mower – and uses it after every mow?

6. Never assume tomorrow will come.

Here’s a classic Tom Vanskike phase: “If the Lord wills.” We hear it a lot. Sharing plans for next summer or next week, or tomorrow? You can count on him to add, “If the Lord wills.”

7. Enjoy eye fatigue.

This is not about screen time. Dad’s a sucker for the natural beauty around us – not just the mountains and streams, but rolling farmland and the wide-open plains, too. He and mom enjoy driving through the countryside, getting what he calls “eye fatigue” from all the sights.

8. Ask people’s names.

Before it was common for servers at restaurants to say, “Hi, I’m so-and-so and I’ll be your server today,” Dad would, and still does, ask for their name. And if the place isn’t crazy busy and the server appears to have a moment, he’ll also ask how he can pray for them.

9. Relax.

Anyone who knows Tom Vanskike knows this is his M.O. in life. It does not matter the situation or context. If you’re getting worked up about something that’s clearly beyond your control, his one-word response will be “Relax.”
*Exception: potholes and politics

10. Put others before yourself.

For him, this applies everywhere, every day, all the time.


Thanks for it all, Dad.
Kate