I’ve written in prior posts that my dad did not like attention on holidays like his birthday or Father’s Day. He preferred to do things for other people, and not necessarily on holidays. For this reason, other than feeling a little displaced and lonely without a plan to spend time with my dad, the holiday does not really bring me down. After all, I already miss him. I think that the hardest part of holidays like this is that I am reminded that I don’t really have traditional family anymore because the family I was closest to are not here anymore (click here to see that post). I do believe that they are always with me, and watching over me, and that is a comfort. The cardinals in Central Park remind me of that, too, which is one of the reasons I have become so attached to being there. Still, there are those times that I just want to pick up the phone, or feel a touch. I don’t fight the moments of sadness, but I never lose sight of how fortunate I am to have them. I use this day to revisit posts I have written over the years, reflect on where I have been and where I am today, and think about the comforting good memories. Mostly, I find myself hoping that my dad would be proud of me and happy with decisions and choices that I have made in my life.
I have shared many memories of my dad, from his time in the Marine Corps to his love of animals to his sense of humor and wonderful laugh. More and more, I see how he has influenced who I am, in the good and not so good ways. People might think that I spoil Tinker Bell, as I did Disney and Tiffany, but I come from a family of pet spoilers! Daddy never minded that our dogs loved to chase the squirrels, though he would shake his head as they barked at the same tree while he knew the squirrel had probably climbed to the next village! We loved animals, and I’m sure that he would be thrilled at the little relationships I have developed with my Central Park buddies. He would also joke at how unhappy our schnauzers would be!
With all of the chaos in the world, I miss getting his perspective, particularly given his extensive knowledge of history and the military. I know that what is happening would have devastated him- he was a proud Marine and a patriot through and through and his mother was from Ukraine (I believe that my grandfather was from Russia, but the borders and countries changed so often then that it’s hard to say). As much as I miss his presence, I am actually grateful that he is not living through what seems to me to be the downfall of this country, but I miss the comfort of his explanations. Daddy was a yeller, and I know that he would be calling me to scream about every outrageous attempts to destroy our democracy. I did trust his judgment on world events because time and time again events did play out according to his predictions. I think back to the days of Dan Quayle, when Daddy and I would rush to the phone to call each other as soon as we heard one of his mistakes. I even got him a subscription to the “Dan Quayle Quarterly.” Now, in light of what he and I would definitely consider damage to the country, Dan Quayle’s errors would be a welcome bit of relatively harmless comic relief!
This year, when I took some of the students from my club to the New York Aquarium, I recalled for them my own first visit with my parents and how my dad laughed when I saw a real octopus. I thought it would look as cute as the ones in the cartoons! I have a real love of octopi now, especially because they remind me of my dad. I treated the students to the tickets and to lunch, which they appreciated, and I know that it is something Daddy would have done. I don’t deny that teaching content is not where my heart is these days, but the moments of imparting life lessons and fostering compassion and kindness is a legacy left by my parents and became an actual part of my teaching experience when Daddy was alive. When he was alive, he often contributed to supplies for the arts projects I did with the kids. I remember at parents conferences, several parents asked how he was because the kids went home and expressed concern that he was having surgery and/or was in the hospital. I did not discuss it much with them but I did let them know when I would be absent due to a medical issue of my dad’s. Daddy’s kind generosity is what I emphasized with my students and what has surfaced so beautifully in members of my school club. The students are kind and I am touched when they say that my compassion inspires them. Really, those qualities were gifts from my parents. When I see the many students who do not have fathers to celebrate, for a variety of reasons, I know exactly how fortunate I have been in my life. Sometimes, it has been those very students who most value hearing about my dad and hearing me say things he taught me, such as “you get more with honey than with vinegar.” While I always enjoyed bringing new experiences to the kids, an added and especially touching aspect of this involvement of my dad was that for many kids, we were providing a feeling of being cared for, a real idea of family.
Today, I also remember that Daddy never wanted me to be sad. Believe it or not, he was not a huge fan of Disney or animation, but when I showed him videos of my Walt Disney World visits with Ben, he beamed because he said he loved to hear me laugh and happy. I cannot count the number of people who stopped me to tell me that I was my dad’s world. He was the consummate pessimist, except when it came to me and my potential, and I was his consummate cheerleader. At a time when I am pursuing writing and other ideas, I must to constantly summon the confidence my dad had in me that I have never had in myself.
Mufasa told Simba, “The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars…So, whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And, so will I.” Daddy would be humbled that I remember him, which is so odd to me, because he is always with me and is so much of who I am and what I aim to accomplish. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of or mention him, and hope that I do justice to him and his values. Thank you, Daddy, for the lessons you taught me, the laughs and sense of humor you shared, the moral compass and patriotism you instilled in me, and the unconditional love and generosity you showed me.
I love you and miss you, on Father’s Day and every day!