I’ll admit it. Father’s Day irritates me.
It isn’t because I don’t think fathers deserve a day just as much as mothers do. A good father is a thing to be treasured. I should know. I had the best.
It’s just that my father died shortly before Father’s Day in 1977, and ever since then the day only serves to remind me of just how much I miss him. Still, even after all these years. I won’t lie and say that I think about him every single day. But not a week goes by, even now, when I don’t see something or hear something or read something that I wish I could share with him. And, I often make decisions based on whether what I end up doing would have made him proud of me or not.
So, in remembrance (because I can’t bring myself to call it a celebration) of Father’s Day, a little bit about my father.
He was born in Germany and came to California with his mother and father at the age of two and a half. World War II found him back in Germany as a “guest” of the Germans in one of their prisoner of war camps. Oddly enough, much later on “Hogan’s Heroes” was one of his favorite TV shows. One would think he wouldn’t have wanted to be reminded, but he really got a kick out of it.
I got my love of reading…and especially of reading science fiction from my father. He was the sort of person who, if there wasn’t anything else at hand to read, would pick up a volume of the encyclopedia or a dictionary and read that. It goes without saying, considering that, that he knew a lot about a lot of things, and I never knew him to meet a person with whom he could not have an enjoyable conversation.
And, indeed, I don’t think he ever met an enemy. It was uncanny. We could be traveling somewhere where we didn’t know anyone, and inside of five minutes after going into a restaurant or a store or somewhere he would he would be deep in conversation with someone.
Something else my father gave me was a love of learning. He did this by convincing me that everything is interesting, on some level at least. He also had a habit of setting up educational experiences for me, everything from taking me to museums, to arranging for a tour of the projection room one time when we went to the drive-in movies.
The fact that his only child - that would be me - was a girl stop him from trying to teach me all the things he would have taught a son. Not all of it took…I can’t do anything but check the oil under the hood of a car…but I can use a saw and a hammer if I need to, and I know how to handle a fishing pole, including baiting the hook. He raised me to be a baseball fan, something that did take and that continues today. But he didn’t just teach me to like the game, but also to throw and catch a ball and handle a bat.
He also taught me some even more important things. He taught me that everyone deserves respect until they prove that they don’t deserve it, and that such respect doesn’t have anything to do with how rich or poor a person is, or what kind of a job they have. He taught me that hard work isn’t something to be afraid of, and that if you say you’re going to do something, you do it, even if it becomes inconvenient.
But he also taught me to hold strong to my own convictions (and to have convictions, in the first place), even if that means being unpopular or going against the grain. That might be the most valuable thing he ever taught me, especially in the current culture of “go along to get along”. I credit that with keeping me out of a lot of trouble through the years, although it has gotten me into a few arguments along the way, as well.