Dad’s as a whole often get a bad rap. They are portrayed on screen as silly, incompetent, and often the butt of the joke. But get down to an individual level and it’s a whole different story. I’d like to tell you about my dad, Alan Naumann.
My dad is pretty amazing in his own right, but when you factor in the reality that he was raised in a single parent home by a mom who was emotionally absent and often neglectful, the fact that he is such a great father is downright miraculous. His upbringing may have had its share of disadvantages, but it also gave him a push in the right direction as he embraced life with a desire to thrive.
My dad is…
My dad is one of the most creative thinkers I know. When it came time to make my school supply box for 1st grade, we didn’t have the budget to buy one from the store. Instead, my dad made one. Not only has it held up over the (ahem…many, many) years since it was crafted, but it represents a great memory from my childhood. He took an old cigar box, covered it with leftover contact paper, added my name to the top. Voila – instant school supply box. It now holds all my spools of thread, but it is one of those things that reminds me of my dad every time I see it.
As I have ventured into life on my own, I am often finding creative solutions to solve problems when it comes to fixing something or finding a way to use a space better. And now I see my kids learning this as well.
What’s being built over there? What does this store sell? What will we discover if we take the back roads? My dad loves to discover new things. Sometimes, like when he wondered if we could make it a bit longer without filling up, it doesn’t work out too well. But most of the time it expands our world. One evening as I was on a speakerphone call to my dad, he asked a question in the
vein of “I wonder…”
My then 4-year old son was in the background listening and shouted “Google it, Grandpa!” We have the luxury of Google and Social Media to answer our questions, and “Google it” is often heard in our home, but it was my dad who taught me to ask the questions in the first place.
…Optimistic & Opportunistic (in a good way)
While my dad is practical and can see problems and short-comings in situations, he is an abundant source of optimism and has taught me to look for opportunities. One particularly huge example of this is when I was a Junior in High School and he was faced with a sudden and unexpected job change. Rather than despair and prepare for a move and a new school, he encouraged me that we would do everything possible to stay put so I would graduate with my class. In the meantime, he saw the power and potential of video and began to teach himself video editing skills. Fast forward and my parents are still in that same house and my dad created a whole business centered around video.
…Flexible and Spontaneous
I like to make a plan and stick to the plan. Changes to the plan can be a cause for anxiety. Not for my dad! He is uber-flexible and has taught me to look at changes as new plans or adventures. As we experience things resulting from flexing, he is quick to point out what we gained as a result of that change. Remember how he was curious to know if we had enough fuel in our vehicle, and we didn’t? That resulted in 2 extra days at the campground where we were staying. Two days to play games, read books, and rest. He didn’t focus on what we missed out on, he focused on what we gained.
The other side of this coin was seizing opportunities to do things. One summer night when I was about 6 years old, my mom and dad gently woke me and told me to put my shoes on and get in the car. Once in the car they blind-folded us because we were on our way to a mystery location. We drove around for awhile before stopping. Once we stopped, they guided us out of the car and walked us around telling us to duck low or step high over something. We ended by going up a staircase, sitting
down in folding chairs, and taking off our blindfolds. As our eyes adjusted, we discovered that we were next door to our house in the church balcony where my dad had set up the movie projector with a feature length film rented from the library. We had our own personal drive-in experience complete with popcorn and pop (a rare nighttime treat)!
My dad loves to laugh. No visit is complete without a good belly laugh from him. (Even better if he is on the verge of tears from laughing so hard!) Along with laughter, he showed me to how to have fun. In the winter he would build us snow forts and we would drink hot chocolate inside. Or we would make an annual trek to the ball park with friends and watch the Minnesota Twins. Many summers he was a speaker at Family Camp. One summer he and his friend dressed up as clowns as part of a carnival being thrown.
We grew up in South Minneapolis when the elementary school served the neighborhood and everyone could walk. In fact, I don’t even remember very many buses lining up in front of the school. The kids I knew in school lived in the neighborhood and some even went to my church (which was next door to my house). Most kids came from families with a stay at home mom, so school programs were held during the day rather than in the evening as it is now. The gym would fill with moms coming to see the program, but only a handful of dads would be there. And mine was one of them. He would work his schedule so that being present for family was a priority. Even now, as my kids have milestones, he makes it a priority to be there.
…All About the Story (especially about family)
My childhood was during the era of film cameras, but despite the cost, taking pictures was very important in our family. (Maybe it was because my dad had very few photos of his childhood?) My dad showed me that photos are a prompt to trigger a memory or elicit a story. If there were to be a fire and we could only grab a handful of things, the photo albums would have been on the short-list of priority items.
Every summer we would take a family road trip. Before the trip started, it was given a name, and after the trip was completed, an album or slideshow was created. Our extended family was scattered around the world. In order to share our stories with them, we would print the pictures, number them, and then record an audio cassette narrating what was happening in each of the pictures. This package would be mailed to Uncle Tom who would listen to the tape and flip through the
corresponding pictures (much like my kids listen to read-along books). When he was done, he would send it to the next family member and eventually it would come back to us. Occasionally, even now, we listen to these tapes and it brings back a flood of memories that shaped our family.
Pictures have become the keeper of the story and even in a digital age they are a natural part of living life well.
My dad could have grown up to be a bitter and hardened man. Instead, he chose to embrace his circumstances and experience life fully.
Thanks, Dad, for being a great example.
I love you.