LONOKE, Ark. - Keith Perkins so respects his father that he often hears himself doling out his father's advice.
One of Perkins' most oft-cited ‘dad-isms' is, "Everything happens for a reason."
"We don't always realize it at the time, but it really does," said Perkins, Lonoke County extension agent for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
He can point to at least one instance where his dad's quip - probably intended to help him see the best in even an apparently bad situation - held up.
"One time we planted a cotton field that wound up being destroyed by herbicide and we had to replant soybeans. It was one of those things we thought was a bad thing," Perkins said. "But it wound up being one of the better things because it worked out for us."
That year was a good one for the production of soybeans, and there was more money in that crop than there would have been in the failed one anyway.
Perkins' father, Jimmy Perkins, still lives in Bono, on the farm where Perkins grew up. Although Perkins' job in the agricultural industry is a bit different than his father's, his father's lessons often come into play. He sees some of the same problems in growers' fields that he did in his family's, he explains, and he realizes his father told him how to address them.
"One of my sayings that comes from my dad is, ‘You won't learn any younger,'" says Perkins. "If you're trying to do something different, you're not going to learn any younger. You better learn it now. You may not have this opportunity in the future, either."
Perkins realized how closely his own children listen when he saw that his 14-year-old daughter posted that tidbit on Facebook recently.
Even though he's all grown up, Perkins still looks to his dad for guidance.
"Anytime I have any problems or questions, I still call him up and say, hey, what would you do in this situation? Or what do you think about this? It's really nice," said Perkins.
On Father's Day in particular, Perkins makes a special effort to visit his dad, going to church or having lunch and going for a drive with him. This year, Father's Day is Sunday, June 19.
Being together is, in fact, one of the best things fathers and their children can do to maintain their good relationship.
Time is, in fact, the advice Wally Goddard, professor of family life for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, one of the most valuable things a father can give his child, especially when that child is young.
"My advice for being a good dad is to take time. Being a dad is always inconvenient - it will intrude on our agenda and our plans and our schedules," said Goddard. "When my children were young and they would say, ‘Hey, do you want to go outside and take a walk,' my temptation was to say, ‘As soon as I finish reading this chapter.' I learned that what I should do is to say, ‘I would love to,' and to set down the book."
With children, Goddard explained, we follow in order to lead.
"That is, if we want to lead them to a healthy relationships and good adulthood, we follow them in their preferences. We pay attention to what they want to do. When my son, Andy, and I would take a walk he would want to sit with his feet in the gutter and float rocks and sticks down the street and I tended to think in terms of ‘let's get somewhere, let's do something.' For Andy the key to time together was just being together doing simple things. The object is not to cover a certain distance but to just spend time doing what the children love."
Of course, no parent - and no child - is perfect. Goddard said it's important to realize that and it's healthy to enjoy the best our fathers have to offer us. There are ways to build our own relationships with our fathers.
"The immediate task is to think of a handful or a dozen memories that are sweet and positive and encapsulate the very best in our relationships with our dads. Even in those cases where the relationship was not ideal, try to find and appreciate what was good. Though our fathers are imperfect people, we can look at all the good things they did and are trying to do yet," he said.
As for Perkins, he's finding that one piece of advice rings particularly true as his four children get older.
"'You never realize how fast time passes until you have kids,'" he said. "My dad told me that when I was in high school, ready to get out and go on and do other things in my life, and I didn't believe him. But he was right."