Monday, December 9, 2013

*Life Ain't Fair, and Other Lessons My Father Taught Me

When I was a baby, my father called me "Princess Summerfall Winterspring." Never mind that I have never in my life seen Howdy Doody; I learned early on that I was named after a fictional Indian princess from a popular TV show that ran from 1947 until just before I was born in 1960.  

Princesses have doting fathers, and have the entire kingdom at their disposal, right? So it should come as no surprise that I had certain expectations of how life should be. I'm embarrassed to admit that I fell into the awful habit of little tyrants around the globe when I would wail, "But that's not FAIR!"

"That's not fair!" seems to be the battle-cry of children everywhere. I said it. My kids said it. My students said it. Yeah, well, "life ain't fair."  My father must have said that to me more times than he cares to count; he certainly said it more times than I care to count!

For me, there were so many inequitable tragedies observed in my relatively charmed life. EVERYBODY wore Levi's 501s in high school, except me. EVERYBODY had Docksider shoes, except me. NO ONE ELSE had to do chores for three cents each. I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO who had to wear a coat when it was 50 degrees outside because my mother was cold. NONE OF MY FRIENDS had to put up with the things I did.  Uh-huh.  

He always smiles before making
his point.
Sometimes my whining worked. Eventually. My poor parents. I must've seemed so ungrateful. More often than not, my father gave me the infamous Gazelle Lecture. I can still see him, leaning forward in his chair, pushing his glasses higher above his nose, getting that serious look, blinking his eyes several times as he was getting ready to make his point.

"Princess, let me tell you something."  
Oh, brother.  Here it comes. This is the part where I regret bringing up my current petty complaint.  

"You might as well learn this now.  There are beautiful gazelles on the plains of Africa.  Fierce lions hunt them down, and eat them. Well, guess what?" He would clear his throat. "Life ain't fair."

Well, that was graphic. And totally unnecessary; especially about the fortieth time I heard it. All he had to do later in life was clear his throat, and adjust his glasses. I KNOW! I KNOW! Please don't make me hear it again.  "Life ain't fair." I got it!

So, of course, being the wise adult I am, I felt compelled to share this little gem of a story with my own children, and all of my students. Seriously, as an adult, it gets so old hearing that trite complaint. Yes, I have channeled my father's words through my own mouth.

"We're having inside recess today because it's four degrees outside," I would announce on a wintry school day before leaving Room 2 for the cafeteria.  

A collective groan would erupt from the group, and someone would inevitably wail, "But that's not FAIR."  I would glare at the offender, with the teacher stare and sphincter face that became my trademark over the years, and they would know what was coming. 

"Well, guess what?" I would ask.

"Life ain't fair," they would chorus. I would smile. Mission accomplished. Dad would be proud.

My own children know Granddaddy's Gazelle story well. It's perfect; short and to the point. I'm grateful to have it in my Adult Survival Arsenal.  I have become my parents.  Perfect.

This morning, the vision of my father loomed before me as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, tweezers poised and at the ready, searching for a stray whisker on my chin. It's so frustrating that the worse my eyesight becomes, the more of the blasted hairs I can feel emerging from my skin. 

"It's just so unfair," I whine to myself. And my father reminds me again, in my mind, that I might as well learn it now, if I haven't already that...GUESS WHAT?  LIFE. JUST. AIN'T. FAIR.  

Thanks, Dad, for that lesson, and countless others. Thankfully, most of the lessons I've learned actually make me smile. Don't give up. Listen to your intuition. Follow your heart.  Render service. The one that seems to come in handy the most, though, is the one about those poor, pathetic, graceful gazelles. I think I've finally got it, Daddy!

P. S.  Dad, I meant to thank you again for the Levi's and the Docksider's.  We couldn't have the Princess being the only one not following the cool crowd in the kingdom of high school.  Life may not be fair, but dads always try to please their princesses. You did a great job of that.
Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring loves you, Dad!


  1. There is nothing like the love of our father and I am so glad you were his Princess. Thank you for sharing your story, it brought a few tears to my eyes. I loved it.

  2. What? You got PAID for CHORES?! ;)
    Good piece, as always!

  3. Lovely Denise. You gotta love Dads for getting straight to the point, don't you? Thank you for sharing!

    1. Yes, my stepmom was just telling me she missed the topics of conversation and the way men think.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Miss Jane. He was a fun dad!


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