“Hey boys, come over here, I want to show you something!”
It was hot and I was tired and more disposed toward a glass of ice or a dip in the backyard pool, but I had been that kind of dad for the past twenty years, and I knew better. It was time to man-up and help my son, Bradley, Jr.—and his fellow 13 year-old swimming buddies—do the same.
“See that bungee cord wrapped around the umbrella stand?” I asked the lads. I had fixed (“fixed”) a slightly-injured patio umbrella stand by connecting a bungee cord to an outdoor couch leg. They gazed at what surely would grace the next cover of Popular Mechanics.
“You know what that is an example of?” I asked as if I’m about to unveil the secret of the universe.
“Uh well, Mr. Lindemann,” ventured Andrew, Bradley’s best friend. “It looks like a bungee cord to me. Am I missing something?”
“Look closer boys,” I said. “What does that bungee cord represent?”
I paused for dramatic effect.
They looked at each other, unaware that this amateur handy man was still a veteran dad and, therefore, an expert at reading the gigantic thought bubbles emanating from their wet, shaggy heads.
One thought bubble read, “It’s…a bungee cord, for crying out loud.”
Another read, “Um, can we get back in the pool now?”
Still another read, “Poor Bradley. Looks like dad is wandering a bit too far off the reservation.”
One boy’s thought bubble congealed into a quote bubble. “We don’t know,” he offered on behalf of the brethren. “What is it?”
I can’t remember a single time during my childhood when my father purposely taught me something.
Now, to be certain: At the tender age of 58, I’m quite sure that I’ve forgotten a few things. Probably more than a few things. The point is that the father-son knowledge baton thing didn’t happen very often.
Today, I’m the founder of an IT consulting company, where I’m surrounded by brainiac fix-it guys and gals, so you might think that I would have overcome my aversion to fixit stuff and worked hard to teach my three sons many of the things my father never taught me. The truth is that I have given my boys little more than my father had done for me.
Why? There are probably two main reasons why I repeated the “sins” of my father. First, being self-taught, I didn’t think I had much to pass along to my boys. Second, with five children and the prevailing chaos that defined our family for many years, it was just easier to do things myself than to patiently teach my sons. I deeply regret this.
Seeing this pattern, I would occasionally seize a teachable moment in a clumsy effort to make up for lost time, which brings me to my pool-side moment of choice to either fail in the classical sense of the term, or “fail” in a kind of forward-looking, positive, and even competent way.
“Improvisation, boys,” I continued with my crowd of young men. “That bungee cord is a perfect example. Improvisation is what you do when you have a problem to solve but you lack the proper experience and tools to solve it in a traditional way. So, you improvise. If you learn how to improvise, you’ll be able to do things that others cannot do. Got it?”
My dad had to improvise. I had to improvise. Bradley, you’re going to have to improvise.
Please warm up to this early and pre-forgive your father for passing on too many opportunities to carpe diem. Hopefully, your sons will have the same grace prepared for you.
As a grandfather, I am focusing more time and energy to helping my grandkids experience stuff that sometimes requires us both to climb a steep learning curve. But, I’m picking up speed and look forward to making some great outdoor memories with my grandkids.
Brad Lindemann is the founder and president of Ambassador Solutions, an IT consulting business based in Indianapolis, Indiana. A speaker for men’s retreats, Brad is the author of “Unique Inspiring Culture” and a new book scheduled for release in fall of 2015, “Live Ammo Living.” Brad and his wife Elaine live in Indianapolis and are the proud parents of five children and grandparents to seven. Contact Brad at Brad.Lindemann@PumpJack.me.