Today is Father's Day.
This is another sort of made up holiday not unlike Mother's Day.
Originally the holiday was created to be celebrated on March 19, but it slowly has made its way to the third sunday of June, and it was officially given that day by Lyndon Johnson. It was not, however, recognized until 1972 when Nixon was in office.
Once again, not unlike Mother's Day, the holiday has been taken over by places such as Home Depot and Sears who offer "dad-oriented gifts." What does that mean? It means that back on Mother's Day I was supposed to by my mother jewelry, and now I'm supposed to buy my father a grill...or power tools...or a big screen TV.
The goal here, is that I'm supposed to spend money to show my father how much I love him. I don't really do that.
Unlike Mother's Day, there's really no guilt involved with this holiday. Now maybe it's just me, but the commercials and ads made it sound like not buying my mom a gift would lead to suffering in Hell, but for Dad...well...a hug and maybe a card is enough. Otherwise just give him a gift card. That'll make him happy.
My father couldn't care less. I did get him a gift, but not because of the holiday. No I did it because he's losing weight like crazy and needs the clothes (apparently a triple bypass and pills will motivate a diet better than anything). I bought him two shirts. No big deal.
His real Father's Day gift is this entry. I know he'll never read it. I know he knows about this blog, but I also know he's extremely busy. I will tell you, dear reader, some stories about my father.
Let me start with the present. Though he is 70 and his kids are all grown up, he still keeps his fathering nature.
My niece is two years old. At her last birthday party, he set up a train set for her and played with her for over an hour. This is a 70 year old man.
He loves his granddaughter. He won't truly admit it if you confront him, but it's just like how he is with my mother's cat. Lucy (the cat) will come into his room and lie on his desk. He doesn't move her, just works around her. If you catch him, however, he gets faux-upset and removes the cat quietly, saying, "Uh...darn white rat...."
I've mentioned before that my father is a Holocaust survivor. He grew up in a very tough situation, but, even though he's had issues showing his emotions, he has always worked hard to be there for us. When I was eight years old, my father was teaching at a university in Cologne, Germany. He was away, but I had time off from school and went out to be with him for two weeks. It was incredible. As busy as he was, my father made time to take me to the zoo as well as Lego Land. He also reassured me as we attempted to drive through the then-present Checkpoint Charlie (I had visions of being arrested or taken away). The highlight of that trip, however, came when my father had a car accident.
Unlike here in America, the cones in Germany are hard and have a concrete base to keep them in place. While swerving to avoid another driver who wasn't paying attention, my father's car struck a cone and lost a tire. He kept the car in control, but had to change the rim.
The next day, he was using a friend's car when a large truck slammed him into a guardrail. (my father has REALLY bad luck when it comes to driving. You have to understand: he didn't get his license to drive until I was born. At that point he was 42.) The police wanted to take him in to give a statement and to talk about what had happened the night before as well. I was left alone. Before he went, my father said to me, "If I'm not back by four, call your mother. The number is on the table by the phone."
While my father answered questions, I watched movies and read books. Soon the clock struck four. My father was nowhere to be seen. I waited two minutes, then I called my mother. As I started to explain to her what had happened, my father walks in with two cops following him. I could see his expression was not happy.
"You called your mother?" He asked.
"You said to wait until 4. It's 4:05."
I knew my father was angry. There was a vein in his forehead throbbing, but he never raised his voice. He wanted to very much so, and he was known for it, but he remained calm. Not because of the cops and not because of the fact that my mother was on the phone. He remained docile, because he didn't want to yell in front of me. He was trying to be a good role model. To this day it is very rare that my father will yell in front of me. Part of it may be that I can yell as loud as he can, but most of the time it is because he is trying to remain that role model.
When I was in college, I had some rough times (as I have mentioned before). The same can be said with high school as well. My father did his best to help. He visited me a few times in St. Louis, and we did what we normally do together: We went to the movies.
The fact that I am a cinephile can be traced to my father. Both Sister #1 and I love films. I remember almost every film I have seen with my father. From the good (The Hunt for Red October, Pulp Fiction), to the bad (Sudden Death), to the annoying (The Long Kiss Goodnight), I have seen many films with that man sitting beside me. Back to the point however.
I used to get a package once every two weeks while I was in college. It contained all of my mail that was still being sent to him and a letter from him.
The letters were nice. How often do people use the written word? I don't mean emails, I mean pen to paper. It's rare that anyone does that anymore.
If it isn't evident by this point, my father is a hero of mine. He has overcome extreme adversity, managed to hold down several jobs at once, and raise three kids with my mother.
My father has taught me when to fight and when you don't.
He taught me that Hitchcock is a master of using color.
He taught me that sometimes you have to lose in order to win.
He taught me that you never, ever, hit a woman.
He taught me that brains is more important than brawn.
My father taught me that all of our experiences are what make us who we are. Never deny who you are for others.
He taught me that when my children are born I need to take some time away from work and just bask in them.
He taught me that secret conferences are great.
He taught me you have to be a magician in order to be a parent.
He taught me that you can be a parent and love your kids, but you should never forget the mother of your children.
I love my father very much, because he has taught me that you can remain a man but still have emotions.
My father has prepared me as well as he can to be a dad. I stand now on the precipice of fatherhood. Even as I finish writing this, my wife has started the labor process (relax, she's right next to me and ok with me writing).
That would be the one thing I have not truly been talking about: I am about to be a father myself (props to Margaret for being the only person to actually guess it).
That's why I'm so grateful to my father. As I am about to become a father, I can look to how my father raised me to see how I should raise my own son.
So, to you my dad, Happy Father's Day. I'm grateful for everything you've ever taught me. I look forward to you, me, and my son going to the movies together.
If you're a father reading this, then I hope you have a great (other sort of made-up) holiday as well.