Fathers…the influence they have on us is great.
Today marks sixteen years since my dad died. He was a wonderful dad, and I am thankful for his influence and shaping of my life.
He taught in different ways. He didn’t leave me behind on his many trips to plant nurseries- oh no, I had to tag along. But by observing and being included, I learned about plants and gardening.
The annual summer trip to Michigan to visit family provided him another opportunity to teach. Oh yes, we had word problem math while driving down I-75! “If we are traveling 60 mph and Lexington, KY is 200 miles away, how long is it going to take us to get there?” Who cares? I never said that- but I never really loved those math lessons! There was also geography and history lessons- I had to look at the map, find the state capitols, and learn to read the big Rand McNally atlas or the state map that we always had on board, to find the route we were traveling. Now, that was more my forte, and I absorbed all this information. When I got old enough to drive- and I mean barely old enough, at age 15, Dad actually made me drive long stretches of the interstate as we traveled, while he sat next to me on the front seat. That was a little scary at times- but yes, he was teaching me to have confidence in myself.
As I got into my junior and senior year of high school, I don’t think I had a clue what I should do “when I grew up”. Creativity was always at the top of my list of things I enjoyed- but how was that going to provide an income? Dad did not encourage me in any way to pursue art as a career. He steered me to medicine- actually, he wanted me to go to pharmacy school, like he had done, but I wasn’t having any of that. 5 years of college, lots of chemistry- AND math- no way! I can’t remember if it was him or me that found the information at a career night at Greenwood High School about Medical Technology, which is what I ultimately ended up majoring in at Clemson and working in for most of the 35 years since then.
But- I was a creative girl. Why didn’t he encourage me in that? I used to joke, that he envisioned me as an artist selling black velvet Elvis paintings on the side of the road! But really, from this vantage point looking back I think it’s because he knew me. He saw that I was not very focused and goal-oriented about what I wanted to do. He also thought about me, as a young woman, having a career option that was practical and would provide stable employment. And his guidance and steering me away from an art career proved sound and practical. I have always been able to find work that suited my schedule and family, and also provided a steady income ,which helped carry us through some tough times when my husband was having a hard time finding work. And, maturity provides discipline and focus, which I needed.
I’ve come full circle- the creativity that I had as a young girl and throughout my life needed to take a back seat during the years when I needed to devote my time to being a mom and helping provide for our household. I have the focus and maturity, and time now- along with the passion. The time to do what I have always loved, has come.
I could say so much more about the ways my dad influenced me, but this is enough for one post…
Ivan H. Christopherson 4/5/24- 8/17/03