Five years ago, Father’s Day fell on June 15th as it does this year. What better time to write a few more words about my father? Also, some of my thoughts on our President’s writing regarding this day.
Both of my parents have given me great advice and continue to do so. Some of the best advice I have gotten in my life has come from my parents – I suppose that is the way things are meant to be in an ideal world. I know only too well what happens when there is an absent parent as I spent hundreds of hours tutoring children who all had either one or both parents missing, in jail, or dead. They were strongly affected, and never in a good way.
A child without any sort of role model in the home will seek out role models elsewhere; whether those role models are found on the screen of the television, the movie theater, or the music device of their choosing, the role model is consistently there for them and they learn from them, for better or worse.
My father once gave me a shortly worded yet strong reprimand for something that happened when I was working in a retail environment. A customer was less than pleased with the help I had given them and told me as much. My father simply stated that even being complimented one thousand times by your customer did not make up for the one time you mess up and make them unhappy; it is unfortunate but true that people will more likely fill out a customer comment card when they are unhappy with the service than when they are quite happy with the service.
It turned out to be quite true because I was later asked about the incident by people who were higher up at the store. While the particular incident didn’t really get me in trouble because it was down to the person mishearing what I had said and deciding that I was clearly an evildoer who was out to make their lives miserable, it could have been much worse had the higher ups been even a little less understanding.
My father and I don’t always see eye to eye on every issue. One such issue was brought up on a pleasant evening when I was living in Israel in early 2002. I told him that at a certain point in time I was going to come back to the United States and I was going to go through everyone’s favorite form of torture, dating. I said that it was going to be all the better because this time around, I was only going to date women who were Jewish and with the same mind set of keeping kosher and observing the holy laws of the Sabbath that I had.
He told me that it was really a bad idea to do so, and proceeded to tell me why. Not only was I limiting myself to a small number of people to begin with by saying that I would only get into relationships with women who were Jewish, but I was really limiting myself to an even smaller group of people by saying I would only date those with the same mindset vis-a-vis kashrus and Shabbos. We went back and forth on this very issue for at least fifteen minutes before something occurred to me. It was true that I was limiting myself to a certain small group of people, but the people in that group also were limited to a pretty small group of people – and I was in that group! That, I felt, was enough to level the playing field, so to speak.
GWB vs. Reality With My Father
I didn’t realize it, but every year for the last seven years there has been a press release from the office of the President of the United States discussing the importance of Father’s Day and declaring it on a certain date in June. The only reason I actually found it was because I wanted to double check that Father’s Day was in fact in two days and it just came up thanks to the wonders of Google. Let us compare some of the gems of wisdom from our president with how my life realy has been, shall we?
From 2001 letter: During childhood, boys and girls look to their fathers for a sense of security, warmth, attention, patience, and understanding. That is so true. I really did look to my father for all that. Whether or not I received it is actually a matter of dispute with some members of my family. I have good solid memories of getting all those things; others might dispute me by saying that I conveniently remember only positive things and push aside anything negative. To that I quote Sheryl Crow: “If it makes you happy / It can’t be that bad.” Well, it actually does make me happy. I guess that means that it can’t be bad. (Can it?)
From 2002 letter: A father can derive great joy from seeing his child grow from infancy to adulthood. I’m pretty sure that at least 75% of my growing up from infancy to adulthood gave my father great joy. The rest can be split up into moderate joy, slight joy, no joy, and whatever word you think is the right antonym for joy.
From 2003 letter: In seeking to give their children the opportunity to succeed, fathers offer needed strength, guidance, and discipline. There was definitely plenty of guidance and discipline given over with tremendous strength. I still see my father as one of the strongest men that I know.
Letters from 2005, 2006, 2007, and even 2008 are remarkably repetitive of one another and almost always talk about honoring the fathers who are in the armed services. My father was not in the armed services in this country, so I don’t really have anything to say on that matter.
My late grandmother used to tell me that he used his incredible imagination to use matches and sticks to make up soldiers in lieu of those little green plastic figures that we in America usually get at some point in childhood; I suppose one could even say that his toys were much better for the environment. That was a great model from that perspective.
I think now is the right time to reach out, if you can, to your father and to fathers you know to tell them exactly how you feel about them as fathers. Naturally, I only mean this if you have something particularly pleasant to say to them. It is their day, after all.