Note: Part of this piece was originally posted one year ago on Father’s Day 2010, when I had very few followers. I thought I would post it again this year, in honor of my father. Please note, these items are listed in no apparent order, which will – no doubt – drive my father nuts.
The men in my life have to accept my flaws. They basically have no choice. When it comes to Father’s Day, everyone knows I’m bad at it. For a while I think I had Monkey fooled, but now I am pretty sure even he’s on to me. I think. Anyway, this is my
last minute sincere attempt to tell my father that I love him in a song. Sorry, I lied. It’s not even in a song. It’s just words. Unless you can find a smooth groove that works along with my prose, then I meant it as a song. Totally.
• • •
- Dear Dad:
I know that I never send a card. I mean, sometimes I manage to pull it all together, but not usually.
And I hope you know it is not because I don’t love about you, because I do. It’s just… what can I say to you in a card that I haven’t already said to you in one of our two-hour marathon phone conversations?
Even though we can’t be together today, please know that I am thinking of you. And in the meantime, here are a few things that I have learned from you. I thought you should know, I have been paying attention.
• • •
Turn Off The Lights When You Leave A Room. My whole life I have heard my father utter this refrain, but you know what? He is right. It is wasteful, and we can each do our part to try to save a little energy.
Be Neat. Neatness matters to my father. Before middle school, he sat me down and taught me to color-code my subject areas: How about a red folder and red notebook for math? he suggested. And how about a blue folder and blue notebook for English? And later, when I graduated to a three-ring binder, my father taught me about the benefits of dividers with rainbow-colored tabs. He likes my penmanship to be impeccable, my numbers to line up in straight columns. Errors made because of sloppiness drive him crazy.
A Crossword Puzzle A Day Will Keep The Doctor Away. At 73, my dad is sharp as a stick. He does a crossword every day, and – as people who do crosswords know – the puzzles increase in the level of difficulty as the week goes on. By Sunday, I am usually stumped. My dad is not a quitter. He works on those suckers until he beats ’em. A few years ago, a study came out that indicated doing crossword puzzles routinely helps delay Alzheimer’s disease. Wouldn’t you know, my dad was ahead of the curve on this one, too?
Leave For The Airport No Less Than 2.5 Hours In Advance of Your Departure Time. I don’t actually do this, but whenever we are going on vacation, I hear the echo of my father’s words in my head chiding us all to “hurry up,” because “we don’t want to be late and miss our flight.”
Stay Active By Doing the Things You Love To Do. My father loves all things associated with his alma mater, Syracuse University – especially sports: basketball, football, even lacrosse. He loves parking at Manley Field House, taking the bus to the Carrier Dome, jumping into the fray with the all other fans, and – win or lose – screaming for his favorite team. It reminds him of his college days, I’m sure. He also plays table tennis regularly, and sells real estate in Syracuse. These are all things he loves to do, and I am sure they help keep him feeling young.
Do Not Do Anything Less Than Your Best. He would say, “Everything you do is a reflection of you. If you don’t care about the product, why should anyone else?”
When You Think You’re Done, Check Your Work. Yep. This is the man who taught me to revise. To find the errors. To make the changes. To not be afraid to rip things apart and start over. To dissect and rework. While my English teachers certainly helped, it was my father who gave me an editor’s eye.
Be good to people. Always.
Family first, then friends.
Don’t live beyond your means. I grew up modestly, but comfortably. I never wanted for anything, but I didn’t get everything I wanted. My father talked about saving for college, and saving for retirement. He’s a saver. He taught me not to covet what other people have, but to be happy with what I’ve got.
Avoid Doctors, But if You Have to Go, Listen to what the Doctor Says.
Do Not Expect Special Treatment. That way you can be surprised and gracious if you get it.
Don’t Forget Your Roots. I grew up in a modest house with a pretty backyard. Though we could have had more stuff, mostly, we kept to the things that were necessary. We played board games: lots of Scrabble and Monopoly. Holidays were spent with my father’s side of the family, who lived nearby. We didn’t take fancy vacations, but visited my mother’s side of the family – my grandparents, aunt and uncles, and cousins – in the Catskill Mountains. We practiced our Judaism quietly but consistently, and we continue to do so.
Overnight Camp Rocks. That is a blog unto itself.
Your Health is Everything. Over the last few years, I have watched friends struggle with and succumb to cancer too young. Other friends have developed chronic illnesses with which they wrestle daily. These things make me feel sad and more than a little helpless. When I was in college, my father had one scary episode that involved shoveling snow, passing out, and waking up in a pile of freezing cold, slush. Suddenly, he had a stent and a whole set of new dietary habits. No more steaks (he eliminated red meat), and no more tall glasses of 2% chocolate milk (he cut out nearly all dairy). These days he looks and feels fantastic, and I pray he is around for a long, long time.
My dad has taught me a zillion other things too.
And I know he’s always got my back.
I love you dad.
(I know. I forgot the comma.)
For better or for worse, name one thing you have learned from your father.