This picture is one of my favorites of you and whoever that other guy is on the right. It was obviously taken long before I came into your life. Set in Greece, it’s nostalgic and artful — but what makes it special, is that it’s of you. My dad.
Today is Father’s Day. I know that in so many ways, it’s a Hallmark moment — more ties and after shave, maybe a barbecue — but you are in my thoughts even more today because it IS Father’s Day and my memories come flooding. Too many, too fast.
When Mom died, you embraced the role of parenthood and took on the enormous job of raising four children, all under the age of 13, by yourself. Having raised two of my own (not on my own, but with my husband — another dedicated dad), I’m not at all sure how you did that. The only answer I come up with is that you considered the job of parenting as the calling of your lifetime. So, you put wings on love, gave it life and momentum, pushed it, cajoled it, coaxed it into action. If you taught me one thing, you taught me that love is a verb.
I used to adore your stories of the War, how you fought in the Greek underground during WWII — the close calls and frightening foxhole moments. I knew every story you chose to share, but I loved hearing you tell them over and over again. I learned the art of storytelling from you.
You believed I was smart so I think it confounded you when I wasn’t doing well in math. Teachers thought I had a learning disability, so you went into action. Before I knew it, you had secured an old math book. I had been content with the “new math” where I got to correct my own work and move along when I thought I had mastered the material. Obviously, I’d been wrong — and that led to the “Summer of Math.”
The “Summer of Math” can only be described as a scorcher, as in I felt the heat. You’d pull out that old math book, every night, and we would sit together at the kitchen table, pouring over math problems. You were like a dog with a bone — I wasn’t getting out of these tutorials until you were convinced I understood the concepts. There were tears. Mom had to intervene a few times so I could go to bed. But then, there were those miraculous moments of clarity when I suddenly understood. That fall, 7th grade, I moved confidently into Algebra. You taught me about dedication and commitment. You also taught me how to believe in myself because you believed in me.
It was that belief in me that allowed me to take risks as I grew into adulthood — move across the country for adventure, change careers to become a teacher, travel alone so I could see the world. My world view expanded because you didn’t keep me tethered to yours.
There are so many memories that make me laugh as I share them with your granddaughters. I wish they could have known you. Every now and then, they’ll flash your sideways smile or say something that might have come out of your mouth and I realize that on some cellular level, they do know you. They are part of your legacy.
When you were dying, I remember how all four of us, your kids, made sure you weren’t ever alone in the hospital. For three weeks, we were each by your side, taking turns. One doctor commented that you must have been a giant of a man to be so loved. He had no idea. You were heroic.
My wish is that every child could have a dad like you — and that their dads live in their hearts perpetually, the way you live in mine.
I love you, Dad —
Happy Father’s Day!