It’s the day after – Father’s Day. These days, it is more a day of remembrance than actual celebration of any sort. My father passed away almost 18 years ago, so I did not buy any records or participate in any cookouts in his honor. But I am thinking about him. My father was a tricky fellow, a hard-working man who took the idea of supporting his family very seriously, he loved to enjoy life when he wasn’t working and had a pretty “old-school” temperament around parenting. He was always more inclined to say “no” than “yes” when you were asking for permission to do anything, something I learned to avoid as much as possible by going around him and asking my mother if I could arrange it. He wasn’t the sort of guy who would sit down and have long talks with his kids but could tell some great stories when he had an audience. When he died after a long, debilitating illness there was a definite sense of relief to see this proud man freed from the role of dependence that he had been forced into. That day, the world shifted on its axis and has never felt quite the same way since, knowing he is no longer out there watching my back.
But there are enduring memories and gifts that I got from my father that have shaped me as an adult, and I find that I still think of him often. For one, I am a master – parallel parker – as a graduate of his private school for defensive driving I am a “smart driver” and I hear his lessons in my head as I navigate the competitive streets of the greater Boston area every day, (too bad he hadn’t taught all those people – how to drive!) I love music – it is constant and ever-present feature in my life – my dad did too and often would play his big band favorites on Sundays while preparing a dinner that would silence a crowd of starving chefs. All “his kids” are great cooks (including one technically trained chef) and we can each hold our own with pride. (Nod here to my mom too, who was no slouch in the kitchen, herself.) But the music piece, the records or in their absence the constant whistling was a direct hand-me-down that is very present in my life. Serious and stern though he could be – he also loved to cut loose and enjoy his life; his dancing, singing, whistling, cooking and joking were all testaments to that aspect of his personality, and that sense of enjoying life I have, I attribute to him.
On another level – my dad taught me to be a “hard-worker”. There was a sense of pride instilled by my father in doing a job right if you are going to do it at all. This little bit of business, has served me in every position I have ever held – from ice-cream scooper as a teenager to my current role as a life coach – I care a lot about the work that I do and always try hard to do my best. But the most important thing my dad gave me was the sense that “I could do anything”. Given his old-school attitude in a lot of ways, I was always a little surprised by this – but my father had great aspirations for me, and even though I didn’t fully get it as a child – somewhere in my head I always heard his voice and his un-wavering confidence in my abilities. When I received my degree from graduate school, my father was too ill to attend the commencement, but I was very aware that I couldn’t have done it without him. I hope that I pass that message along to my children as well.
Things with my dad were definitely not perfect. He wasn’t easy – and the differences in our personalities and outlooks often made for some big riffs and clashes. It was only with maturation, distance and time that I fully began to appreciate all that he was about and the struggles that he faced, kids being primarily ego-centric and all, this isn’t that unusual even for a perceptive kid as I had been. Nonetheless, I am grateful that he was my dad. The gifts that he gave me are priceless and precious to me. So for this father’s day – I just wanted to take a moment to say “thank-you” to my dad, he may not be here anymore but he lives on all the same with each random whistle, surge of self-confidence or excellent dinner, that I create. Buona Sera Dad…