Handshake

My daddy taught me how to shake hands.

Today, the web is littered with articles titled “How to Give an Impressive Handshake” and “The Perfect Business Handshake: How to Shake Hands Well & Why It’s So Important” – vital information in a digital era. My daddy taught me the correct handshake nearly twenty years ago, back when you still waited for a dial-up tone from your modem and pantsuits were not symbols of power, but worn only be secretaries.

He told me, “Taryn, a handshake is your introduction to the world. Make it count.” Then he took me to his high-powered office in a tall, shiny building and had me meet his colleagues. I learned how to shake hands correctly. It served me well in later years – when I met the judges of competitions, interviewers for med school, patients and expensively dressed Wall Streeters. Sometimes, I got compliments on my handshake, as if the other person couldn’t believe that I was a skinny, blonde girl. Usually, though, I just smiled to myself when I remembered my dad’s admonitions. “Grip firm, shake briefly, make eye contact, be friendly.”

How many people go around teaching their eight-year-old daughters a business greeting? I’m pretty sure that I was incredibly blessed to be given my particular dad. I know most parents grapple with how to raise their children, and I’m sure my dad did, as well, but I never saw it. All I remember, from my entire childhood, is my dad treating me like a person. I hesitate to say he treated me like an adult, because it was more than that. No matter how old I was, he always listened to me. He had me make my own decisions. He supported me in my choices (even when those choices included some atrociously bad fashion combinations.) When I had doubts about my faith, he sat down with me and we academically studied contentious issues. When I had to choose a high school, he told me it was my life and I better figure out what I wanted from it. He had a knack of knowing what I wanted to do and then insinuating that ‘of course’ things should be done that way. I wanted to take a year off from med school but was afraid of the delay in graduation and the expense? Before I even voiced those fears, he commented, “Take a year off. Best plan I’ve heard all day.” And that settled that. I only remember him telling me I couldn’t do something once, and that was because we happened to be in the middle of a blizzard.

I don’t know if my daddy consciously set out to treat his children like people, but I do know that his instructions to a little pip of a daughter in a red plaid dress have stayed with her. “Taryn, a handshake is your introduction to the world. Make it count.”

Daddy, you were my introduction to the world. You made it count.

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