As Father’s Day approaches I, of course, think of my Dad who left this Earth in 2012. He was a good man, my Pop. His last several years were difficult, filled with numerous medical issues and a wife who was unable to deal kindly with his physical and emotional challenges. So when he left, I was happy for him. I imagine him now responsibility and nagging free, enjoying himself with a Stoli over ice in one hand and a remote control in the other, watching me live my life filled with love and meaning…and being over-the-moon happy for me.
While many judged Dad’s lack of interests − he didn’t play golf, take classes or volunteer − I understood. He was a typical man of the 50s who focused the majority of his life on his responsibilities. The first half of his grownup life he took care of my crazy Mother, my brother and me and the second half he took care of his new wife, with whom he spent 20+ very happy years until he got very sick.
My Dad did “his job” in this life, and he did it well. Here is an article I wrote soon after his passing. I wanted to express who he was and how much I appreciated that smart, caring man with the integrity you wish you’d see in everyone you meet. I think you’ll love him as much as I do.
I miss you Dad.
(PS: I’d love to hear about your Dad.)
My Dad died. There…I said it out loud. Even though I was by his side and saw him take his very last breath, it’s been hard to believe he’s gone forever. F-o-r-e-v-e-r.
I wanted to write this article for Thanksgiving so I could publicly thank him and show my gratitude. How trite, I thought. It doesn’t do him justice.
So I write now. On a dreary Friday in November. Just another day like every single day since October 2 when I think of him and wish he were here.
I very much want to honor this honorable man. I also want to pass on some of his life tips. I know he would get a kick out of me doing this. Not just because receiving public gratitude is pretty nice, but because it validates that he did a good job teaching me. (Yes…I was listening, Dad!)
I now see that Melvin took his job as Father very seriously. He made a good living. He set a strong and positive example. He taught us something every day. He raised two hard-working, nice people.
I also see that he loved me deeply. I never fully realized that until the last several years of his life. He was a typical man of the 50s and showing emotion was like speaking a language he never learned. As a side effect of his strokes, though, Dad became less able to control his emotions. He started telling me he was proud of me. He told me he loved me. And as he did, he would choke up and even cry.
Dad also showed a huge amount of love and appreciation for the man I picked to marry.
By the time I got married at 47, Dad had given up on the idea of me ever snagging a man. He stopped asking what was “going on.” My wedding fund had been dissolved into another account. He worried (at times out loud) that I’d never have anyone to take care of me.
That always really pissed me off. I knew my Dad thought I wasn’t whole without a husband. He also thought that I couldn’t attract one because I was doing something very wrong.
After he received the news of my upcoming nuptials, dear Dad told my brother “I hope she doesn’t screw this one up!” After my brother told me that (which was a stupid thing only a man would do) I was mad at my Dad for at least a year.
(As an aside, when I first talked to my Dad about my wedding here’s what he said: You can wear white, honey. Don’t worry…I won’t tell anybody. That was the delightful, funny side of my Dad!)
Just about the time Melvin was due to walk me down the aisle, now that I was sharing my life with an amazing man, I started to get it. My Pops was scared for me. He knew life was hard. (See below.) He wanted me to be happy, and knew how much having a good partner would enrich my life. He didn’t want me to have to face every event, every decision and every success in my life without a #1 fan.
At 47 I learned that my Dad was still smarter than me. Even though he was living circa Father Knows Best times, he knew something I didn’t know. Life is better with a partner who makes you feel safe and special and, yes, taken care of.
Unfortunately it took his death to help me realize something super significant about my Dad: he was the man he wanted to be. Though there were many ways he ticked me off and disappointed me, Dad achieved exactly what he set out to do in life: be a good Father.
Just like in the movies, when Dad knew his time with us was nearing an end, he called Larry over and whispered in his ear. He asked him to promise to take care of me. I didn’t feel one tinge of anger; only gratitude and love.
My Dad was simply doing his job.
So…here are just a few of the things I learned from my Dad. You probably know many, but perhaps one or two will help calibrate your life compass as they do for me every day.
- Use soap.
- Turn off the lights.
- Don’t pet stray dogs.
- Matzo Brei is best with sugar.
- Don’t change lanes in an intersection.
- There is no free lunch.
- Good neighbors come in all colors.
- Don’t work on Yom Kippur.
- Life is hard.
- Keep your word.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Sarcasm is an undervalued form of communication.
- Don’t take the last ice cube and not refill the tray.
- Your integrity is everything.
- Regardless of what someone does, if they work hard they deserve respect.
- Work for justice.
- You get what you pay for.
- There are many people suffering and you can’t ignore them.
- Respect is earned.
- Work hard and you will be rewarded.
- Be fair.
- Be kind.
- Be grateful.
- Take care of people you love.
- Do your best.
And maybe the best lesson he taught me, which I almost learned too late: I am loved.
Rest in peace, Pops. I love you too.