There’s a quiet to my father that I didn’t understand when I was growing up. To me he was stoic – a silent, authority figure at home who didn’t tell much stories or ask me about school. My Dad’s kind of quiet was difficult for me to understand. I labeled him “distant”, “detached”, “unconcerned.” Those made-up labels made me cry when I was a little girl, as I wondered why a lot of my friends were Daddy’s girls, and why I wasn’t. But as the years went by, as I hit my late teens and twenties, I began to understand the kind of quiet my Dad had.
In grade school, we communicated through Post-it notes. I’d be in bed by the time he’d come home from work. By the time I’d leave for school, he’d already have gone to office. Sticky notes were the way to go – to ask for allowance, to say hello and thank you. In high school, I wrote a note asking him for P300 so I could buy a new T-shirt for my out-of-town retreat. I was expecting some bills folded under my sticky note the next morning, but all I got was a note back saying I had to learn how to save money to get the shirt I wanted. I remember feeling my anger rise as I thought “I hardly see you and you lecture me on a Post-it note!” (Such embarrassing entitlement!) But what he wrote stayed with me through many years. I did save up for that T-shirt, and felt proud about that accomplishment. My father and I never talked about that exchange, and I don’t think he remembers that today anyway. But that quiet exchange humbled me, and I still take that lesson to heart.
Quiet at home, he would retreat to the garden for hours on end. Plants bloomed under his touch, flowers blossomed with his nurturing. By the time he’d come back inside the house, he’d be tired from gardening and we wouldn’t really talk. It was only when I began working that I understood the need for that quiet outlet to release stress, to become more relaxed. If gardening was his refuge, solitary writing became mine. I finally got his need to recharge quietly as I began feeling the stress of the workplace myself. A quiet environment refreshes your soul, and I earned that from seeing him treat gardening as his refuge.
We communicate in silent moments. One of my favorite lessons from my father is learning to filter what would come out of my mouth. He shared with me that there are three questions I have to ask myself before saying something out loud. (1) “Is it true?” (2) “Is it kind?” (3) “Is it beneficial?” Before I speak, I need to answer YES to all three questions. Otherwise, I run the risk of putting my foot in my mouth, simply propagating gossip or being mean to who I’m talking to. It’s an exercise I find myself practicing often, and I have observed him going through the 3-question process during some moments at home. When this happens — I have seen how powerful his silence is — I too hold my tongue and keep quiet as well. In those moments, I bond with him. In those moments, our silence brings us closer. In those moments, I begin to understand my father even more.
There’s a quiet to my father that I didn’t understand when I was growing up. But over time, I discovered the power of a quiet father. I learned life lessons from his quiet ways. I learned to find serenity in silence. I learned that sometimes keeping quiet can be more powerful than speaking out. I cherish the quiet moments my Dad and I have over breakfast, over dinner. There is never an awkward silence, only a peaceful kind of quiet, quietly shared, quietly cherished.