"Patience and love. Sometimes tough love."
Talking to my grandparents and parents on the porch after dinner, I asked the fathers what the most important thing they'd learned was. Grandpa Schave answered very quickly with "Patience."
He talked of raising his two kids and caring for his two grandkids, of times when frustration was easy and patience was hard, but only patience made for good children. Love is always necessary, but it's not always exactly what we'd call nice.
He talked of his son Scott, who got a lot of tough love from Grandpa. But when Scott went to get married, he asked his dad, my grandpa, to be the best man: "You're the best man I know," he said.
Thus ensued stories of laughter and of tears from all four of my grandparents and both of my parents, some about my uncles and parents, some about my brother and I. My Grandma Mc, considering all this, said, "I've got a few lady friends without children. What an empty life that must be. I've been so blessed by all of my children - what's the point without them?"
She raised my dad and his brother as a single mom - yet she found joy as a mother, even during the hardest times. There is pain and worry and sorrow, yes, but there is joy.
What my dad said ties right into that: "Patience and letting you guys fail at things that wouldn't hurt you, instead of making everything perfect all the time." It must be hard - and very worrying - to see your child fail, but as I look back on it, I see that I am better for it.
I pray that I can one day be as good of a father as my fathers have been to me.