I'm not well-traveled enough to know how other countries or cultures celebrate Dads, but here in the U.S. of A we treasure this Sunday as Father's Day. I hope everyone, everywhere - regardless of location - takes time today, and every day, to thank their lucky stars for their Dads. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search, a Yahoo! search, and an MSN search on "dads" just to see what turned up. Check them out...in my opinion, MSN did the best job - not so much in numbers, but in relevance.
My life was blessed with two dads. As a child, I lived with my mother and step-father, and a younger brother and sister, in the city of Rochester. My two older sisters lived with my dad and step-mother in Endicott, NY. We visited on a regular basis. But, the families seldom interacted - so I did not get to know my dad until my step-father passed away, and my step-mother passed away, and my mother and father remarried.
Yep, you heard right. After being divorced for over 40 years, my Mom and Dad remarried, and they have continued the life they began when they were much younger - as a matter of fact, they live in the same town again. In the same area they grew up in. The same area my Dad, as a young 18year-old boy rode his bicycle fifteen miles a day to see my beautiful, young, 16year-old Mom.
Let's fast forward...their love-story is fodder for another day. And, in between, there are wonderful events that took place when the step-parents were still here. In fact, for many years, I believed my step-father to be my father. I adored him and was crushed when cancer took him.
Today, I'm visiting Mom and Dad. Tom and I drove up yesterday, to spend the weekend. I really love taking time to get away and visit with Mom and Dad. It's such a different pace - out in the country, relaxing in their trailer home, listening the the kids play in the 'street' out front, hearing the birds call from tree to tree, and just marveling in the atmosphere of family connections that are stronger than concrete or steel.
My Dad is 77, and slowly beginning to show signs of aging. He's a bit more stooped than I remember him from years past. This is a man who was always as big as a mountain, to me. He's a former Marine, and so proud of that - of fighting in WWII, he carries that pride like a mantle on his shoulders. His stories of the war aren't full of the blood and terror, as much as the commaraderie and humanness. Things that he did and saw and how people are people, no matter where you go. War is hell, there is no doubting that, but...when you get down to the smallest, common denominator, it's about the people, and the people - from here or there - are pretty much the same.
We'll talk about other things today. We don't talk politics or religion, much. We have differing views on that, and yet, in the end, we actually agree. Again, everything comes back to one thing: the people. My Dad is a people person - he's a family person. He had some really tough times as a kid - I marvel at how well he managed that life on the street as a young man, with no home and nowhere to go. I marvel at how strong he was - in his heyday and how he met and married the love of his life, my Mom, and how they had 3 little girls in quick succession, then...life intervened to create a rift between them, sending me off to Rochester with my Mom, while Jan and Sue stayed in Endicott, with my Dad. I marvel that it wasn't the war (or, was it? one can debate that the war changed him and when he returned, it was difficult for both he and my mom to reconcile his war experiences), that tore them apart, it was their own inability to deal with life on life's terms.
And...so, life went on. Each one moved forward in his or her particular way. I was blessed to be in the home that introduced my brother and sister, Mike and Maryanne, and to be a big-sister to them. I didn't much like it back then, but what a privilege it was! I'm so grateful for that today - I cannot express my joy. Meanwhile, my dad settled in at IBM and finally retired at 55. A good age, in the day, for retirement. He's been on his own now for twenty-two years. He's traveled across the country to camp, fish, and drink in the marvels of this great land, from shore to shore and campground to campground.
The man I visit today is a simple man. He doesn't much care for fancy restaurants, or fancy homes. He does his morning exercises to stay limber, and he reads his morning paper to stay informed. He does his crossword puzzle, in concert with my mom, and he basks in the glory of being - a dad, and a granddad. I guess I'd say that his fondest wish is to see his kids happy and cared for. To know his grandchildren will inherit a strong family bond that stretches from city to city, state to state, and even country to country. That all the children in the family (and there are over 50) be cuddled, disciplined properly, not overly indulged but treated to special things every now and then, and that they be reminded of their heritage. It's a fine, strong, winding line of men and women - a tree with many branches, a road with many forks, a house with many rooms.
And so, we will have a delightful, soft, technology-free day in Endicott. We will watch a little TV, and chat about new babies and graduations and weddings, and we'll all be happy that fortune as seen fit to give us yet another year together.
Happy Father's Day to all Dads, everywhere. The great ones, the good ones, even the "bad" ones... because without them, we'd be so much less than we are; we kids who are here today because along the way, a DAD came into our Mom's life.
If your Dad isn't around, or if you feel slighted because he isn't what you think he should be - celebrate anyway. Celebrate the fact that you're YOU, and that somewhere, there's a Dad who will happily embrace you - in his place. I believe that above all else. My Dad is someone like that - and, lots of other Dads are, too. Yours is out there...celebrate this day of hugs and togetherness, and keep the faith.