Glass Half Full: More often than not, father knows best
Glass Half Full
My father was not an easy man. He had an easy laugh, an easy way of meeting people and getting to know them, an easy way of involving himself in a wide array of activities and adventures.
He was, in so many ways, larger than life. One could say he was easy to please in that he delighted in small things and in sharing life in general. One could not say he was easy to please in terms of standards of behavior and performance. For all of those reasons, I am very grateful.
Dad was a strict taskmaster. When we were little, if he said, “Jump!” we knew to do so immediately and without question. It’s fair to say he was authoritarian. Dad wanted to be in charge and was.
Many of our friends were somewhat afraid of him. Those same friends treasure the friendships they developed with Dad when both of them were older and he no longer felt it was his duty to guide them into adulthood.
Saturday night’s Reno Rodeo reminded me of my father. In addition to being a life-long teacher at a boys’ (later coed) boarding school, Dad raised and trained quarter horses. Hence, so did we.
My brothers and I were given our own horses at very early ages (I was five). With those gifts came the responsibility of care: feeding, cleaning corrals, exercise, training. As a family, we went on pack trips and competed in years of gymkhanas and rodeos.
None of those endeavors was taken lightly. Care of animals came first. With it we developed a respect for others and an awareness of how to treat equipment and schedules. In competitions,
Dad cared much less about whether we won or lost than he did about our sportsmanship and whether we were taking appropriate care of our horses during the long days of competition.
To Dad, performance was a combination of skills, strategy, and science. We worked on all three. He still holds two California state records that will, very likely, never be broken, given that he set them in the late 1960s.
I recall a time when I returned for a short visit after both of my daughters had been born, and Dad suggested I ride in a local gymkhana, just for fun. He explained to me a new theory of balance that was completely opposite of everything he had instructed us as youngsters.
I won every event I entered, on his horse. My favorite photo perfectly captures that new technique. I can still feel Dad’s pride in pleasure.
I still believe it was a result of our working together and his willingness and ability to teach. My husband was surprised to learn I was so competitive…
Dad stopped riding on his 85th birthday. He didn’t want to fall mounting or dismounting and be a burden to us “kids.” I will always be grateful to him for being a strict taskmaster, for having high expectations of me, for never letting me settle for less than my best.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.
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