As I have said before, the greater amount of context you have, the harder it can be to pin down one or two things you have learned from someone. I would add that if you are driving to their house in a few hours it becomes even more problematic 🙂
The first story that pops into my mind about my father in law was when he was asked to do something during a family picnic. He paused, but it was unclear why he was pausing. He was then asked why he hadn’t begun doing the thing he was asked to do (I don’t have the foggiest what he was supposed to do – probably go get something from the house since his truck is everyone’s primary mode of transportation). His response following is what I remember, “I’m just integrating that information.” There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. I repeat it often (at least in my head). You don’t have to retort with your rough draft. We can offer ourselves the freedom to take a breath while we think/integrate and it would probably soften everything.
Second Story: when Rachel and I first got married he gave me a tool box with a lot of tools in it. Robbie wrote me a note about taking care of his daughter, about the tools he was given as a young man, about desiring to have had more given to him earlier. It wasn’t a super long note, but it meant a lot. This is mentoring at its best – tangible help, men passing to men what it means to be men, talking about and owning our roles in life. The tools are also good – Craftsman.
Third Story: he and I were going somewhere when he mentioned learning that looking at things together for their upcoming Kitchen Remodel meant a lot to his wife’s heart. He said something like, “I didn’t know that looking at faucets would be like a date to her.” What is amazing to me about that is that from both Rob and Shirley (his wife, my mother in law) there is a consistent interest in one another. They have been married over 40 years, and I cannot imagine what kind of commitment that takes. It is amazing, and mentoring to me, to hear a husband of that long who is interested in learning about his wife. They are imperfect, they struggle as much as any couple I’m sure, and as I write this I don’t know that Robbie discovered that through pursuit. But, he was paying attention. I hope I pay attention and that I continue to pay attention.