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My Father’s Classroom

Local Pulse Lifestyle Editor, Dana Hairston Hof, with her father Roger Hairston.

I don’t remember what year it was, but I was a student at an SEC university living my best life. Y’all, I mean to tell you the truth: it was adolescent wrong decision heaven. You could get an education or you.could.get…an ED-YOU-CA-SHUN. 

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There were cute boys, frat parties, football, baseball, and basketball games, my own apartment, and nothing but the big ole exciting world straight ahead.

I was smart as a whip and dumb as a doornail.

Parents of teenagers understand this oxymoron with Dalai Lama clarity. 

As a high school student, I proudly repudiated parties and related shenanigans. It almost became a badge of goody-two-shoe pride as I would loudly proclaim how “I didn’t do that sort of thing.” 

Enter The University of Hog Callin’ Heaven on Earth. I’m just telling you right now, a High Priest would struggle not to participate in SEC tailgate tomfoolery. 

Well, at some point I began to partake in what I had previously shunned. There was a time or two I even wondered if my forebears could see my idiocy from up above. My conscience sat on my head and heart like a weighted self-knitted blanket of condemnation. 

But I was five hours away! 

And I was an adult! 

And I could make my own decisions! 

Dang-it!

One morning, I was home for the weekend and relished sleeping in. After waking up, I walked into the kitchen and there lined up across the edge of the table were a couple of empty liquor bottles and crushed beer cans. 

If my memory serves me correctly, I was not 21. 

I walked over to the table, with the trash can in hand, and raked the evidence (and my big head) straight into the receptacle.

As a gesture of kindness upon my return home, my Dad had gotten up that morning and gone to the carwash to detail my car. Unbeknownst to me, my idiot friends had stuffed their pre-party beverage leftovers into the seat pockets. 

I promise on the Holy Chapters I was the designated driver that night. But parenting in my family was not a democratic discussion and I would not be called to testify on my behalf. Without saying it, we all knew the truth of the situation. I probably WAS acting like a MO-ron and embarrassing the people with whom I shared a hard-to-pronounce last name. 

Never since has an image or feeling been burned so clearly in my memory as the one of that trash sitting on the pristine kitchen table of my childhood home. 

It was probably one of the strongest parenting lessons I’d ever received and it was unaccompanied by a lecture or a single word. Nevertheless, I understood my assignment: I’d better straighten my hind end up.

The nuances of drinking, partying, not taking care of my car, and how and with whom I was spending my time was not as important as the big picture of the good character lessons my Dad has spent his entire life trying to teach. 

For many, it’s no big deal and maybe even a right of passage to head off to college and become immersed in a party scene. But it wasn’t the culture of my family and fell short of the expectation for me to get a good education and be a person of integrity.

I did, in fact, straighten out my aforementioned hind end. I eventually graduated from The University of Arkansas with both an education and an ED-YOU-CA-SHUN, but the wisdom I’m the proudest of is from the classroom of my father’s instruction. It is a place where a lesson from his mouth is always lived out in his life.

Aligning these two things is sometimes the hardest task in parenting, but at its intersection, you will find the most exemplary fathers. 

Dad, thank you for modeling a tireless work ethic, sacrificial service to others, immense courage, value for education, and an unconditional love of family.

This Father’s Day, I understand how lucky I am to have such a great father. I know that not everyone does. 

So, if Father’s Day is hard for you, I’m happy to share mine with you long enough for you to hear him say what he’s always said to me, “you can do it, you are loved, and it’s all gonna be alright.”

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Dana is an Arkansas native and a seasonal resident of the Gulf Coast since childhood. She was a Pensacola resident for 13 years, before moving to Gulf Breeze. Dana attributes her Mayberry-esque childhood in Warren, Arkansas, as enormously influential in honing her definitely Southern style of storytelling. She earned a degree in Journalism, Advertising/Public Relations from the University of Arkansas (Woo Pig Sooie!). In addition to writing, she loves photography, art, adventures in the great outdoors, and spending time with her three children.