Unlike Mother’s Day, which has a different date between the US (where my parents are (and the UK (where I am am living), Father’s Day is the same for both and we’re all celebrating accordingly. I’ve been thinking about how lucky I was to have a visit from my Dad pre-lockdown and how we made the most of that trip, braving February in Scotland in general and getting away to Islay and Jura, among other adventures.
Although it was nice to be able to teach my Dad a few things about whiskey and Scotland while he was out here, all of that pales in comparison to what he has taught me growing up. One of the most valuable life skills and traits I’ve learned from him is a healthy work ethic: the commitment to earn a living and how to follow through on that commitment. Like most things you learn from your parents, this lesson didn’t come from my Dad telling me that I needed to “work hard” and “honor my commitments”, it came from him showing me what it actually means to do that in practice.
Even since I could remember, my Dad owned his own small business: a hobby, crafts, and home store called Collectable Creations in the small town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. And, just as the saying goes that there is nothing more overrated than owning your own business, he (and my sister and I) lived it. He rarely had a day off, and so when we were with him, we were at the store almost without exception. As a result, I was exposed from a very early age to what work really meant and the retail experience of dealing with the general public (aka customers). Running a business is a constant job. You have to be there to open the doors on time, every time. If the store wasn’t open yet you are cleaning and getting it ready. Inventory and ordering needs to be managed daily. The aisles always need to be “faced” and tidied up. The cash register needs to be counted and money deposited each night. The books must be balanced and bills paid every month. I didn’t realize it at the time, but being exposed to all of these things early on made it much easier to get a job and do well in them later in life.
I was allowed (and often told) to participate in the core duties of running the store (like an employee in a sense but totally not in violation of any child-labor laws 😉) and compensated for my work mostly through all the benefits that come from having a toy store at my fingertips. I got to drive RC cars and planes, build models, launch rockets, and play all sorts of games. We had to test the things we sold after all, right?! Although I’m sure there were plenty of times where going to the store felt like a drag, my main memories of this time are that I was so lucky to have access to all these things growing up in the store and, in the long run, I was really fortunate to experience the structure and routine that came with running a business.
Looking back now, I can see this early experience as a precursor to my own working career, starting as a paperboy when I was thirteen-years-old, a courtesy clerk (aka bag boy) when I was fifteen, and a long career in retail all through the rest of high-school and college, and even to this day. I always could consistently show up to work on time when some of my peers found that seemingly simple act a challenge. I also approached having a job as a natural part of being a grown-up (which I couldn’t wait to be as a kid of course) and not like something “extra” that I needed to do to please my parents. I also think that I took more ownership of what I did in all my jobs based on my experience of seeing my Dad as the sole person responsible for his own store and for earning his wage. There is an unspoken pride and ownership in work that an owner has different from an employee.
I know that owning and running his store was the cause of as much grief and pain as it was cause for pride and contentment, but I’m really thankful for the sacrifices made and am proud of my Dad for having the courage to do it. It was and continues to be a great gift.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day! ❤️