Father’s Day, 2009

In the grand scheme of holidays, conventional wisdom traditionally ranks Father’s Day not only behind Mother’s Day but also below Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, the Fourth of July, even Memorial Day, in terms of time allotted to planning the festivities and dollars spent. Many dads admit they haven’t done much to merit any particular kudos. We are a country of families headed by Homer Simpsons and the like. If there is one dad in the U.S. who stands out as the exception to this rule, one who unabashedly deserves to be celebrated, I know just the guy. My dad. My dad is the best dad ever. No, I’m not twelve years old and writing this essay to impress an English teacher. Nor am I about to ask my dad for a loan. I’m a grown woman, finally mature enough to appreciate the decades of selfless and loving service of the man I call Dad. My dad was, and is, an example to me for his devotion to my mother and to us, his hard work, and his amazing storytelling skills.

I am lucky that my parents have shown me a great example of long-term marriage. My dad and mom have been together nearly thirty-five years. During that time I have never seen my father raise his voice at my mother. I’m sure he has used a cuss word once every twenty years or so, but I never saw it. A few years back I went home from college to recuperate after an automobile accident. One morning I walked down the carpeted stairs in the central corridor, in my bare feet, and my parents didn’t hear me. There they were, in the kitchen, classical music blaring at ten a.m., waltzing together like a couple of honeymooners. I remember thinking just how rich they were. Another morning I saw my dad composing a note to my mother, which he signed, “Your Secret Admirer.” Dad explained that since he is ten years older than my mother, he was writing her a note every day, so that in the event he left her she would have enough notes in her memory box to read one every day for the rest of her life.

Dad was just as good to us when we were growing up. He wasn’t one of those macho guys who couldn’t express his feelings. He was stoic, yes, in that if he was hurting he wouldn’t let any one know so as not to worry us. Once he got his leg caught in a sanding belt by accident and didn’t cry out because he knew mom and we kids were upstairs, and even though he was really in a pickle, he thought of us, before himself. But that was where his tough guy behavior stopped. He always told me and my brothers how much he loved us, every day. And he showed us with his actions. When I was a kid I acted in a lot of theatre productions. My family didn’t have a lot of money during those years and couldn’t afford the tuition. So my dad built the scenery for the whole troupe, like the sign for the toy shop in The Little Match Girl, as well as creating all of the turbans for all of the thieves in Ali Baba and many other scene sets. He also did the laundry, cooked us unconventional breakfasts like popcorn with coconut milk, drove me to school every morning, and got up with me at 5:00 a.m. on those frigid Wisconsin winter mornings to help me deliver the Sunday paper when it was too heavy and too cold for my bike. As a young adult, my dad helped me move about two hundred paintings, all on masonite and some as large as four feet by eight feet, from Wisconsin to Chicago and up two flights of stairs. By this time my dad was over sixty. When I say “helped me move” I mean, he did the whole thing himself. A year or two later, I suffered a cold when flying in from Los Angeles to Chicago for Christmas. So Dad wouldn’t let me take the train the rest of the trip as I had planned. He drove non-stop, across state lines, three and a half hours, just because I was sick. That’s the kind of thing that my dad doesn’t blink an eyelash at.

My father is a man of many skills who has worked hard every day of his life, and God willing, will continue to do so for decades to come. He never looked down on any kind of work or was afraid to get his hands dirty. He is an excellent calligrapher. He builds things with wood—He built me a bed, that I designed, bookshelves (several times) and he also carves little boxes, vases, and toys, out of wood. He has a talent of talking his way out of anything, like every speeding ticket he should have gotten when we were going up North to visit our grandparents. (It might have helped that all the cops were Irish, too). But the gift that means the most to me, is my father’s storytelling ability. When I was a little girl, for years, my dad used to put me to bed with stories every night, until I got too big. He created a unique, incredibly memorable character who always fought the bad guys using her guts and wits. Now that I am out of college, and living in Los Angeles, I had the idea that this character would make a great animated screenplay. My dad had never written a screenplay before, but that never stopped him from doing anything else. Dad is now on the third installment of his series and the feedback we are getting from industry vets is phenomenal. “The sweetest thing ever,” is how one normally nonplussed exec described the script. That’s my dad!

Dad, I want you to know, I love you always and forever from the bottom of my heart. Happy Father’s Day.

Love,
“Pumpkin”

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