Since yesterday was Father's Day, it seems appropriate that I reflect on my own father and his influence on who I am. I first heard the term "lifelong learner" several years ago as I became involved with educational technology. I think the term fits me perfectly. I am constantly acquiring new knowledge, working on new skills, and looking for ways to apply my new knowledge and skills to enhance my life and the lives of others. The tenements of being a lifelong learner require one to ask a lot of questions, take risks, experience "breakthroughs", and have high standards for excellence. Only in the past several years have I really thought about my dad's influence on me and he too was this kind of person.
Dad loved all things new. We used to move into a new house ever few years. We didn't move far, always in the same town, but as soon as Dad got sick of the furniture, he was ready to switch neighborhoods. We were the first to have for example, an electric dishwasher, color television, a microwave and a telephone answering machine. The dishwasher was an anniversary gift to my mom in the early 60's. My mom's friends thought Dad was extremely unromantic. For my mom however, that dishwasher goes down in history as the best gift ever! I remember how big a deal the microwave was too. It weighed about 500 pounds and was the size of a small car. Dad brought it home for a to my mom Christmas gift and wrapped it up with newspaper. We cooked absolutely everything in it. Even foods that would have taken less time in a conventional oven were cooked in that microwave. My dad poured through cook books and experimented with every possible food type. We ate a lot of "ugly" food, since the microwaves in those days never really browned anything, but supposedly dinners were ready much faster.
My dad worked for a food packaging company, Libby's, and was a real company man. We never bought fruits or vegetables from the produce section of the store, and a vegetable garden was out of the question....much too old fashioned. In the 60's and 70's, all we had on our table were canned and convenience packaged foods. TV dinners were an important staple since mom worked full time. If mom slipped in a can of Green Giant peas or DelMonte green beans, Dad would have a fit. He could identify canned food brands by the color. It wasn't until the 80's when I met my husband's mother that I realized green beans actually came from a plant, and one could actually bake their own cupcakes from a recipe, rather than unpeeling plastic wrap.
When my dad started to consider changing jobs, he went through a whole set of possible second careers. He tried to build things, like once he and my mom bought a bunch of laminated board and a set of furniture building books and build themselves this bookcase/headboard thing. It was full of cracks where the screws were driven in too far, and it wobbled terribly. He loved it for it's practicality, (since it held the ashtrays and books) and for the fact that he and my mom made it themselves. That wobbily, broken down headboard stayed in their bedroom for years until he set fire to it one too many times, from smoking in bed.
After several stops and starts with other possibilities, Dad picked up photography. The bedroom closet and adjacent bathroom counter became a darkroom. Within a few short years, Dad became an expert photographer. To hone his skills he poured through dozens of books, took thousands of pictures, and networked with other professional photographers. I was in high school at the time. He bought me a camera too, and together we wasted a lot of film and darkroom chemicals trying to figure out how all this stuff worked. Just before he was diagnosed with lung cancer, we worked together to take pictures of a small wedding. We had a wonderful time and the couple were really happy with their album. It really made him happy that he was able to become skilled enough at photography to create something so meaningful for someone else.
This 21st century is such an exciting time. Technology is advancing and information is increasing exponentially. My father would have loved it. I'm quite certain that he's surfing the net in heaven and if the saints and angels have a social networking site, he was the one who set it up.
Thanks Dad for your influence on me. Because of you, I love all things new. I learn to find resources and pour over text from books and websites. I experiment and make lots of mistakes. I put up with "wobbily" just because I did it myself. It makes me happy when I help others learn. Because of you, I understand the value of lifelong learning.