I was fortunate enough to have had my father in my life for a little more than fifty years. My Dad was the kind of father who would get down on the floor to play with his kids. He did Cossack dances around the house, sang sad and silly songs, told really funny and really corny jokes, brought us bubble gum at the end of his work week, and played rag time piano. He struggled with us (certainly me) through math classes, taught us all to play poker, box, and skip rope. He taught my sister and me to waltz, and retained Victorian-like, romantic ideas and attitudes of courtliness and honor.
My Pop was fiercely clannish in the best sense, hard working, athletic, and tenacious. He dreamed of having a Kennedyesque compound, with all of his family and other loved ones close, sharing, helping, and protecting each other. When I was very small, before he could afford a car during the hours the bus didn’t run, he walked back and forth between Jersey City and his job in Bayonne (5 miles each way.) Providing for, and keeping his family together was central to his being.
He seldom attended church but held strong beliefs about honoring parents and holding God in awe. He taught me to always fight fairly and never throw the first punch, a stance that cost me dearly during the street fights of my childhood. He was mostly self-taught and retained a positivist belief in self and home improvement, remaining active until he was about ninety.
I was completely devoted to him as a child and thought he was the most brilliant man alive with his adherence to scientific method and home-made chemistry lab. He taught me to believe that I was smart and could learn/teach myself anything into which I was willing to put time and energy. As a teen, we struggled because of my difficulties with algebra and developing interest in boys, but he was always protective: a reasonable and considerate father, and I always knew that he loved me even when I thought he didn’t understand me.
We played piano duets, watched science fiction movies, played simple games of chess, discussed politics and art and music and science and architecture. He taught me how to order at a restaurant if I was alone- a seemingly small thing-but for a shy girl, a gift that allowed me to travel independently. I was taught how to use tools and treat them with respect, to change a tire, and some basic plumbing. He often called me “pixilated”, recognizing that I was dancing to a song unheard by others, and he did his best to prepare me for the practical world he knew would invade my artistic, sometimes dreamy world. He was a bit less successful in this than in other endeavors, but his love continues to shore me up as I dance gingerly through an often harsh reality.
He was a good man and it is my sincere pleasure to wish all of the good fathers and fathers-to- be a wonderful and Happy Father’s Day today.