It’s Father’s Day once again. For the Americans amongst us, it’s a throw-back to the old country. After all, it isn’t really a holiday here. As Jews, we believe in honoring our fathers (and mothers) every day. For those who have family in America, Father’s Day is A Day.
It’s kind of hard to miss. Just walk into any stationary store (do those even still exist?) and, as soon as Mother’s Day has passed, the torch for consumerism moves on, and another Hallmark holiday begins.
Growing up, every Father’s Day, we would dutifully present our Father with whatever construction paper creation we had made in school. When we cleared out my parent’s house a few years ago, I actually found all of our old projects. I spent an afternoon going through each one. Watching how my artistry went from lowly stick figure to a man. I giggled at my misspellings and my drawings of “My Family” and all that.
However, as I grew up, the formal celebration of Father’s Day kind of fell to the wayside. The Sunday brunches in a restaurant of my childhood slowly morphed into a card placed on his pillow and going out for steak in the evening.
But, that was okay, as my dad didn’t really put too much value on these types of things. He appreciated some kind of recognition, but he wasn’t so into gifts and the like.
As I grew up and moved out, Father’s Day became a card sent in the mail (timed to arrive BEFORE that Sunday), and a phone call. My dad wasn’t such a big conversationalist. Not that he didn’t enjoy a good schmooze, but he only felt free to talk on certain topics (restaurants, investments, stocks and WWII trivia). Much beyond that, and, he fell into listener mode (or, snoozing mode, to be exact).
Moving to Israel kind of complicated the whole Father’s Day thing. I couldn’t get a card for him here, and if there was ever a person who was hard to buy a gift for, he was it. So, I would try to remember the auspicious day in June when I would call him, and, with the kids gathered around the speakerphone we’d all scream, “Happy Fathers’ Day!” My cardless/giftless guilt was usually pretty high. Invariably, I would comment on it, and, invariably his comment was, “Don’t worry about it.”
Never one to hold a grudge, he just always appreciated what I had to offer him, as I offered it. At the time, I thought it was indifference, and maybe there was some of that. But, I would like to think that it was also a part of his generous nature. He just wanted people to be happy.
Now, things are different. I have been writing about him in the past tense. But, it isn’t because he isn’t around. Baruch Hashem, he is.
But, he isn’t. After having some health issues for the past few years, he fell a couple of months ago, and he has not been the same since.
Where once he was infallible with dates, times, and places, he now hovers anywhere from 1969 to 1993. He asks me where my mother is (she died 17 years ago). While he remembers my older children, his only comment when he sees pictures of my younger kids is “What cute kids.”
He knows I live in Israel, but, I am not sure that he remembers what that means. So, he is here. But, he’s not. Before his fall, I would speak to him several times a week. Usually just a quick hello, yeah, the kids are fine, yeah hubby is good. Sure is hot here.” To be concluded with a “nothing really new” for both of us, and, then a goodbye.
I used to find those conversations frustrating, upsetting and, yes, even annoying. I wanted more of a give and take. Feel more of an interest from him.
But, those calls don’t happen anymore.
And, I miss them. Sometimes it really feels like he is gone. Even though he is not. So, even though I still call, and, his aide will put the phone on speaker, his garbled responses are still hard for me to get used to.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.