SLICE OF LIFE: Teaching life lessons on Father's Day

2013-06-16T00:00:00Z SLICE OF LIFE: Teaching life lessons on Father's DayBy Vanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

A grasshopper hops into a bar. The bartender says, "Hey, we have a drink named after you." The grasshopper asks, "You have a drink named Steve?"

I've heard that joke dozens of times. Maybe the name in the punch line is different. Maybe it's Bob or Don or Jim. But the premise is the same.

And anyone who has talked to my dad for more than 15 minutes has probably heard the joke. It's one of his classics.

I grew up hearing those guy-walks-into-a-bar jokes. As  a kid, I stood within earshot of blue jokes he told at parties, knowing the lower Dad whispered, the more inappropriate the content.

Puns were constant, and impressions were plentiful. 

I still get regular voice mail messages from Ronald Reagan and Hulk Hogan, updating me about what my parents bought in the produce department or had lanced at the doctor's office.

And, for more than 30 years, I've rolled my eyes.

Dad and I don't have a mushy relationship like you see in the movies. Although, he did cry when he gave me away at my wedding.

We're better at talking current events and politics, even if I lean a little farther to the right than he'd like. 

He taught me how to love the White Sox and hate the Cubs. He taught me it's important to go to church and actually get involved.

A lifelong high school teacher, he taught me the value of education.

He spent most of his years teaching children in poor neighborhoods. Often, they were raised by grandparents or siblings, because their parents were serving time or were hooked on drugs and alcohol.

Dad took students to baseball games, kept in touch with phone calls after graduation and even gave them rides home when they were stranded, despite the litigious nature of our society.

I was always proud of him for that. He wanted them to know they were valued.

For many of the kids, he was the only positive male role model in their lives. I didn't mind sharing.

I worked with him one summer as he taught job skills to a group of students with special needs. They joked around with him and begged to hear his impressions, the same ones I always rolled my eyes at.

So, to Wayne Renderman and all the fathers—and father figures—out there, Happy Father's Day.

Vanessa Renderman is a business writer for The Times and can be reached at

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