Today, at least in the United States, we celebrate Father’s Day, a day to honor every father for being just that – a father. On this occasion, I would like to write a little something about my own father, and what a tremendous impact he has had on my life, perhaps without fully realizing it.
Looking back on the last twenty-five or so years, or at least what I can remember of them (I am about to turn twenty-six, quite a scary number for a person who became an “adult” thirteen years ago, as it were) some of my happiest memories involve my father. This ranges from the variety of memory of us actively doing things, simply spending time together watching television or a film, and even some of the many conversations that we’ve had over the years.
Two of my favorite sub-categories of the “doing things” category would definitely be “going grocery shopping” and “going to garage sales.” Every Sunday, for a long time during my childhood, my father would go to the supermarket and I would go along to help him. It thusly came as a surprise to me when I heard that in most households the mother was the one who did the shopping for food. It seemed beyond comprehension. I suppose to a certain extent, what one experiences in ones own life, prior to seeing “outside” examples, seem the “standard” and normal as it were. My father was (and still is) a huge fan of clipping coupons. It is from here that I grew fond of the art of buying food in larger quantities when on sale, and watching for trends in price.
This also came through in our other wonderful “doing things” sub-category, that of going to garage sales. This also was largely done when I was younger, though we still do it once in a blue moon on a rare Sunday when I am in New Jersey and we see a sign for a garage sale on the street. What would happen during Garage Sale season (from the early spring until the mid to late fall, when the weather permitted it of course) we would go to about a dozen garage sales every weekend and find lots of really nice things for not much money. Numerous lessons on careful spending habits were learned here, not that I always find myself applying them, of course. I don’t think I would be such a big fan of half.com if it weren’t for going to garage sales with my father.
These weren’t the only two types of things that I enjoyed doing when with my father. They are two of my favorite, however. I also have fond memories of going to museums with my father when I was in Paris with my family and my brother and mother had to leave suddenly because the apartment where we were staying had a cat in it and he was strongly allergic at the time. It was amazing how the weather cleared up and we were able to enjoy Paris so much more – not to say that I didn’t enjoy it with the family being there, of course. There are a few of my absolute hands down favorite conversations that I’ve ever had with my father that took place there.
When you have two people who have interpersonal communication and language as a strong point, add the fact that one of them is the father to the other, you are bound to have a lot of great conversations. I wish that all of our conversations would have been secretly recorded and transcribed such that I would eventually be able to look back on them and smile and reflect on them. Almost how my instant message program of choice, Trillian, records every chat I have with anyone without my prompting it to. There are many noteworthy conversations that I have had with my father, but I’d like to just mention a few. The first one took place when we were in Paris a number of years ago. We were walking along talking about something, I’m not sure, and then out of nowhere he started telling me what I still consider to be important advice, as silly as it might seem. He told me that if I was ever in a bind and needed to buy food but had little money, one could always rely on potatoes, pasta, and rice to be inexpensive. He gave me a lot of similar practical advice, and that is one of the things that I really do love about my father – loads of practical advice just about whenever I want it.
Another great conversation also took place in Paris, and revolved around the lack of unity amongst European countries. I asked him if he ever thought the countries of Europe would ever get together and form a sort of union like the United States had. He told me it was highly unlikely, and that it would be difficult enough just to get them all to have one currency, let alone to be a part of one union! It was, perhaps, one of those defining moments several years later when I realized that my father was not in fact Superman, as it were, and was fallible. This did not mean that I had any less respect for him, of course. It just brought him down to a more human level, capable of making errors in judgment and the like.
One of my favorite things that he has ever told me actually came by means of e-mail – I was corresponding with him about a year ago about my job and how it seemed to be very nice yet boring. (How I miss that boring job now – which at least had some semblance of income!) When I complained that my job was boring, he responded that, in fact, most jobs are boring. However, he added, most people were boring, and so they didn’t usually seem to notice. I distinctly remember that this positively made my day, so to speak, that day at work. It is something I think about from time to time whenever I start thinking that there might not be any feasible non-boring job options for me in the future.
Television and Film
Briefly – I think it is thanks to my father that I have such an appreciation for good television and film. I don’t think I would be so fascinated with foreign film and more obscure independently produced film if he hadn’t had some influence in that area, in that case. I don’t think there are many people who can sit with their fathers and watch A Clockwork Orange without someone squirming at some point or feeling awkward or uncomfortable. It was my father who introduced me to one of the greatest Russian filmmakers ever. It was with my father that I sat and watched many a World Cup 1994 Football Match. (I choose to call it football in defiance of what it is called in the United States, “soché”) We sat amongst fans of the Italian team and shook Italian noisemakers while shouting “Italia, Italia!” Much of which was accompanied by great conversation, of course. Not as much during the television – but there were commercial breaks for the talking.
Writing and the world of Art
This would not be an article about my father if it didn’t mention the profound impact he has had on my appreciation of writing, art, and all things that one could consider to be more “cultural” as it were. It was my father who told me that if one were to spend but a few seconds on each and every painting in the Louvre, it would take more than a day to do so. My father and I correspond via e-mail and we have our subject line be an ongoing poem of silly and funny nature. He has encouraged me in my writing every step of the way, though he has cautioned me to be pragmatic about it – something that I appreciate a lot more than I think he realizes. How many countless books were purchased at garage sales, book fairs, bookstores – all for the benefit of my becoming a more well rounded intelligent individual.
How much my father has done for me – I don’t feel that I have come even near to express
ing what a tremendously fantastic father I am fortunate enough to have. Nor have I come even close to conveying how much I appreciate that which he has done for me. I honestly don’t know if I ever will be able to. G-d willing, I will do my best as long as I am able to.