The Rockwood Files: Letter for Dad

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Dear Dad,

I’ve been out of the house for nearly 20 years now, and I’ve finally figured out you were right about a few things. I didn’t realize it two decades ago because my brain was riddled with teenage angst, coupled with the firm belief that you and Mom were completely out of touch with the real world.

But living in that real world has shown me a thing or two. And I’m finally grown up enough to admit that, yes, parents do often know exactly what they’re talking about and they are not, in fact, put on this earth only to embarrass and irritate their teenage children. Go figure.

So for Father’s Day, I thought you might like to know that a few of the things you used to always say while we were growing up did eventually begin to make sense. Not only that, I find myself saying them to my own kids, which I’m pretty sure means I’m officially old now.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Man, that tired old line used to really irritate me when I was 13. And I remember how indignant I was that I might have to do something as tragic as wear my old Keds tennis shoes a few months longer than I wanted to because we didn’t have quite enough money for a shopping trip. I remember my pouting and sulking and my inability to realize that money is a finite thing.

But I get it now. And I’m grateful you taught us how to work hard because those lessons have served me well. I remember all those nights when you didn’t come home from work until it got dark, and you were covered in sweat and sawdust because you’d spent the whole day trimming trees and hauling the heavy limbs into your dump truck. I didn’t realize it then, but now I know you and Mom were working that hard to keep our small business alive, so that we could have a home and lasagna dinners and new Keds tennis shoes.

“People are as nice to you as you make them be.” Honestly, this one always confused me a little when you said it, which was often. I never did quite understand how I was supposed to “make” people be nice to me. But now I get the gist of what you were saying, which was “Don’t be a doormat.” Not everybody has been nice to me along the way, Dad, but I’ve finally learned that I don’t have to stick around and take crap I don’t deserve. You never did, and now I don’t either.

“Make your own fun and friends will follow.” This was the one you modeled best. The only thing you devoted as much energy to as your work was having fun with us. And I think it helped make us who we are. You know those nights at the roller rink when all the other kids looked at you like you were nuts because you were an actual grown-up dad wearing roller skates and racing us around the rink like a maniac? We always knew that those other kids were a little jealous because our dad not only could skate, he also would skate with us. You never allowed us to sit around moping, waiting for some friend to come along and entertain us. You showed us how to go have fun and lead the way. And, to our amazement, it worked. We had plenty of friends who came along for the ride.

Professionally, I even learned how to do what’s fun for me and get paid for it. I know you were secretly hoping I’d take over the landscaping and tree trimming business for you one day, but frankly that kind of work is hell on my manicure. I’m much more comfortable here at the computer keybrockwoodheadshot2010compressed2.jpgoard, writing about adventures in motherhood. I found what’s best for me, what makes me happy, and I think that’s what you really wanted all along.

I hope saying all this will convince you that I didn’t spend those first 18 years ignoring all your fatherly wisdom, even though I’m sure I made it look that way. It turns out that you did know a thing or two or three. And I’m glad you have always been there to teach me, to nag me, and, most of all, to love me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of She’d love to hear your thoughts, so click the orange button above to comment. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.