In reflecting on Father’s Day and what my father has meant to me, I began to run through all the years we’ve been together. Through those almost 59 years, the deepest impressions he has left on me are not the things he told me, but rather the things I saw him doing. This is not to say he hasn’t given me advice over the years, some of which I didn’t follow to my detriment—“Get a civil service job,” which while literally meaning to get a civil service job, really meant make sure you secure your future—and others I knew better on—“Don’t lift weights, they’ll make you get fat,” which was not scientifically based, but rather on some guy he knew from his neighborhood in the Bronx who lifted weights and then got fat setting up an equation for him that remains to this day as does the civil service job equation.
I suspect most of you can offer similar from your fathers. The idea isn’t to create a Should Have Followed/Knew Better list of father quotes, though that might be entertaining. I’ll leave it to the readership to determine how to proceed on that score. Just keep in mind that similar dossiers exist on your pontifications over the years from your kids. If you have any doubt about that particular end of the karmic universe, recall as I do, teasing one or more parents and others a bit older about having to hold things farther from their bodies than their arms could extend in order to read something. I remember that every time I drop a pair of granny glasses on the end of my nose to read a menu or the instructions on a box, or find the proper emoji in a sea of fuzzy yellow balls with fuzzier two pixel details that spell the difference between winking and rolling my eyes at my boss.
Against the many things our fathers have said to us are the thousands of things we have seen them do. Yes, thousands because we saw them go to work thousands of times. We saw our fathers come home thousands of times and kiss our mothers and kiss us. We saw our fathers walk the dog and mow the lawn. We saw our fathers shovel snow and rake leaves. We saw our fathers coach Little League and cheer us on at a sporting event. We saw our fathers say hello to the neighbors and help them move a couch. We saw our fathers do things for their parents and their family. We saw our fathers go to a wake and funeral and offer a reassuring hand or shoulder to someone in grief. We saw our fathers get up in the middle of the night to pick us up when we got in trouble or wait a few minutes after we got home from being out and check the front door, their quiet way of saying that they waited up without showing us they waited up.
All of these things we’ve seen our fathers do, a list each of us has that’s far longer than the few things I mentioned are what have gone into shaping us and making us who we are. It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, though there are undoubtedly elements that affect us differently because we are male or female. Nevertheless, we are affected and by extension, we affect those who see us in the same way that kids from other families have been affected by seeing what our fathers did and we by what their fathers did. Food for thought: we’re role models, too.
So take some time this Father’s Day to think about the things you saw your father do and how you reflect that now. How you do some of them, how you avoid at all costs doing some of them, but most of all how you, that person you see in the mirror every morning, is who you are because of what you saw your father doing. If you can today, tell him and thank him; if you cannot, put your hand on your heart and thank God for when you had him and what he gave to you.
To all the fathers, stepfathers, and men the world over who do the myriad things that affect all our lives and move us forward just by being watched, a most wonderful and blessed Father’s Day.
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