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Finding My Own Way

And Occasionally Tripping Over Dad's Path

By Dana CrandellPublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 6 min read
Finding My Own Way
Photo by Jacob Campbell on Unsplash

If you've followed my writing on Vocal, you may have read a story about my father I published a little over a year ago. On rereading that story, I decided that it wasn't exactly what I wanted to say for this new challenge. It does say a lot and I'll link to it at the bottom of this story, but please, don't jump to read it now.

This story was created for the Father's Footprint Challenge, that prompts, “Write a reflective essay exploring the role your father or a father figure has played in shaping your identity, and the lesson they imparted that has had the greatest impact on your life.” Here's a link:

Reflecting on life with my father is difficult, for a few reasons, but mostly because he left when I was very young and I rarely saw him as I grew up. Nevertheless, this won't be a negative or self-pitiful story. I did become reacquainted with him later in life, and we built a few memories. More importantly, I've realized in my own time that he did teach me several things over the years. In keeping with the prompt, there's one lesson in particular that stands out and I'll get to that.

Before I let you in on that lesson, though, I think a little background might be in order. I'll try to keep it brief, but it's all relevant. Bear with me for just a bit and I'll try not to bore you.

I'm the youngest of 4 siblings. I have two older brothers and an older sister, who is the closest to my age, with a 4 year difference. My family was unusual for the time, because my father, a traditional Mormon, married a woman “not of the faith.” Mom was Presbyterian and insisted that her children be allowed to explore and make up their own minds.

Alright, enough of that. I'm not going to go off on a religious rant. This is about my dad and that last bit is just to set the stage.

Let's start with the physical man. In that respect, Dad's shoes were hard to fill. Literally. He stood six-foot-four and weighed in at around 250. Lean and hard. A brick wall. The kind of guy whose kids did pull-ups on his arm. The kind of dad you didn't argue with.

While I didn't inherit that physique (none of us did) I learned to be lean and hard in spite of it. Childhood injuries were shrugged off or walked off. Pain was ignored and often still is. Today, I'm six feet tall and tip the scales at about 200 pounds. Not exactly an intimidating presence but I can handle myself. To use my own version of the modern vernacular, fuck with my family and find out.

Dad had 3 favorite forms of recreation: bowling, fishing and hunting. Though I wasn't old enough to accompany him on the hunting trips, the entire family participated in the other two activities and we did learn to shoot, starting with strict gun safety. I went along and watched. I learned. I took my own gun safety courses later.

Bowling: I have a 300 game in my bowling history, a few trophies and a lot of high league scores. I throw a mean hook, although I don't match the frightening speed with which my dad hurled a 16lb Brunswick Black Beauty. Although I've always loved to bowl, I was an adult before I really learned to bowl well and that's another story entirely.

Hunting: Yes, I hunt. I've never kept a trophy. I have put a lot of food on the table for my family. I've done so safely and lawfully.

Fishing: It's what I do and fly fishing is the ultimate outdoor experience. Dad taught us his version, which employed a simple spin casting outfit with a clear plastic bubble about 8 feet behind the fly. It was the most practical tackle in his favorite fishing spot, a steep canyon with 17 miles of creek at the bottom and only a deer trail to follow to and from the top.

My fly casting lessons would come much later in life, starting with day trips with my sister's husband at the age of 14. I wouldn't really learn the art of fly fishing until I moved to Wyoming as an adult and taught myself through hundreds of hours on the rivers and streams.

Showing my granddaugher how it's done. (She has a daughter of her own, now. I've had that hat a long time.) Photo by her mom and my daughter, Lori D. Crandell Maciel

Today, I can out-cast and out-catch most anyone I know and I've had people stop, watch and ask me to teach them. Think of Brad Pitt on that rock in A River Runs Through It (although it wasn't him doing the casting - sorry, ladies). Yeah, I can do that and more, although I'm not as pretty as Brad. I reached that level on my own. Still, I owe the love of fishing and the outdoors to my dad. I also know that in a tight spot, a spin casting rig and a plastic bubble will do and I'll use them. (There might even be a metaphor for life in that.)

I could go on and on about the fishing, as some readers will already know. Fortunately for you, there was much more to my father. In fact, he was a legend in many other areas.

I mentioned his Mormon upbringing. I didn't mention that he was invited to join the Tabernacle Choir. His singing voice, as well as his looks, melted all the ladies' hearts. He turned down the invitation, because he would be gone more often than a family man should. I find a little bit of irony in that, but it's how I heard it. The important part, though, is that I, along with my siblings, inherited at least his love of music. There are many stories there as well, but I'll save them.

By the way, I did discuss the Mormon religion with him later in life, when he came to town for my first wedding. I initiated the conversation, because I was curious. It was an open and honest discussion and enough to confirm that it wasn't the right choice for me.

Dad was a carpenter. Not just any carpenter, but a custom cabinet maker and master craftsman. I played with all of the tools in the shop as a child and learned the skills later in life. I've worked in the wood trades. I can build you a house, complete with cabinets, or turn you an elegant newel post for your stairs. My oldest brother and I had our own construction business for a time. Need a pair of custom designed and built Minnie Mouse Adirondack chairs for your granddaughters? Been there, done that.

Dad did his own plumbing and electrical work. In my adult life, I've always done the same, learning by doing and none of the completed work has ever failed to pass an inspection. “Handyman” work has always been a fallback when times were tough, because although Dad didn't teach me to do it all, he inspired the drive in me to learn it all.

Alright, a lot of this sounds like it's all about me, so let me get to the point. I love my dad. While he wasn't around for a good portion of my life, the impressions he made when he was, stayed. Not all of those impressions were positive. I followed his examples when I felt they were right. So, the most important lesson from my father is stated in the title of this story. I found my own way.

So, what about that subtitle? When I compare my life to that of my father, which, by the way, ended a little over 10 years ago, I see similarities. Some I see as good things. Some, not so much. I wonder, are we destined to follow some of those footprints, whether we choose to or not?


Thanks for reading!

Here's the original article for my dad, if you're so inclined:

WisdomMen's PerspectivesManhoodFatherhood

About the Creator

Dana Crandell

Dad, Stedpad, Grandpa, Husband, lover of Nature and dogs.

Poet, Writer, Editor, Photographer, Artist and Tech/Internet nerd. Content writer by trade. Vocal Creator by choice.

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Comments (13)

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  • Dana Stewart10 months ago

    You are a man of many talents, this well written narrative no exception. It's full circle, isn't it, to realize what you've made with what you have? Thank you for sharing this part of your journey, and gotta say, I love the Minnie Mouse Adirondack chairs! I also do some woodworking. Crafts, not furniture. :)

  • Margaret Brennan10 months ago

    What an incredible journey. I always thought of writing an article on my dad but never knew where to start. Reading your article, I guess I can start anywhere that seems right. Thank you for inspiring me.

  • Jay Kantor10 months ago

    Dear Gramps Dad-D ~ You always seem to "Hook" me with your "Toothy-Grill-Gill" yarns ~ Mormons to Jewish ~ Same Values sometimes just different "Schmaltz." Yes, a time for reaching back, in our 'Special' ways, that oftentimes don't mean a 'hoot' back when, but now are tantamount to our long-term memories. I've just written 'Dear Dad' with a different slant, but 'Special' just the same ~ What "Isn't Given" sometimes is the real 'Lessons Learned' ~ - Happy Dads 'D' Day 2U - VM 'hood Bud 'J' Jay Kantor, Chatsworth, California 'Senior' Vocal Author - Vocal Author Community -

  • I'm so glad you followed his examples when they felt right to you. I feel many people fail to do so. I think he would be so proud of you that you found your own way!

  • MT Poetry10 months ago

    It's touching to read about your journey of reflection on your father's presence in your life and the lessons he unknowingly imparted upon you.💕 Life has a way of weaving similarities between generations, but ultimately, we have the power to choose which footprints we follow. Thank you for sharing your story.🥰🙌

  • Roy Stevens10 months ago

    Father's Day brings out the memories, sweet and sour, doesn't it Dana? '(A)lthough I'm not as pretty as Brad.' Aww shucks, bat those fried egg eyes from your truck photo at me and I'll follow you anywhere big guy! 😁 20th Century dads were much more complicated creatures than they appeared to be, and that's made so much fodder for us writers. Great piece Dana!

  • This was great really enjoyed the part about fishing I’ve been fly fishing exactly twice both with my brother I had an amazing time I learned to cast and did catch fish. I related a lot to your story my father and brother were both carpenters my brother owning his own business for awhile. My mom left my dad when I was three and like yours he came back later in life though I don’t think he was the man your father was most of the lessons I learned were what not to do. You wrote this very well.

  • Kendall Defoe 10 months ago

    I like this. And I am tempted to write another piece about my dad...

  • KJ Aartila10 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this interesting & insightful perspective of your life. ❤️

  • Great job on This One Dana, ❤️💯😉📝I feel that we learn even when we think the damage is all we can see at the time...

  • Gina C.10 months ago

    This was wonderful, Dana! As others say, I love how you focused on the positive. ❤️ I giggled at your version of the modern vernacular-- I definitely would not want to find out 😅 You seemed to have learned a lot of great things form your father, and this was a wonderful read 🥹

  • Misty Rae10 months ago

    Nice. I love how you focus on the positive here. Finding your own way is often the best course of action because as much as we may be our parents' children, we are also our own people. That's a hard lesson I had to learn after having my own children. Fun fact: I'm a pretty hand hunter and fisher too. PS: Brad Pitt was never my cup of tea...just sayin' :)

  • Test10 months ago

    Well written, Dana. You certainly made the best of what you had and kept what made you a good man. You don't really touch on it, but I'm sure you learned a lot, also, from what he didn't give you. Kudos to you for dwelling on the positive.💙Anneliese

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