It can be wearing talking about the COVID-19 Pandemic and the new normal to come. That is why this piece will only mention them briefly. Instead, I will discuss a much better topic, my dad, and all the other great fathers out there.
Father’s Day is approaching, this time around, I find myself missing my dad more than ever. He has been gone for over twenty years, but sometimes I can still hear his voice saying words of encouragement, or making me laugh with one of his corny jokes. My father died way too young, and at the time it was devastating. He missed the birth of two of his grandchildren and did not get to enjoy much of his retirement. It comforts me a little knowing that he was spared seeing Hurricane Katrina or 9/11. I know that both events would have broken his heart. He never got to comment on the new security requirements when flying, witness the cruel greed that caused the great recession, never had to see the unfairness of the global pandemic or the televised murder of a handcuffed black man either. It was a mercy; he would have hated seeing such injustice. Selfishly, I wish he was here to tell me what to do next.
My father was always the smartest, quietest person in the room. He studied economics at the Wharton School and studied history all of his life. I only heard him raise his voice a few times and every time – I definitely deserved it. He was as incredibly strong, 6 feet 4 inches tall, and could fix almost any appliance. He was also so sweet. When he discovered a snake’s nest in our backyard, he built a fence around the area so they wouldn’t be disturbed. The idea of killing them would never have crossed his mind. Here are a few more stories about what made my dad so great. For any of you other dads out there, some of these might not be okay to attempt now, but they were perfect for the times:
- At around age twelve I was being bullied in school, and it was difficult for me to talk about it. Each night after dinner, my dad and I would play catch outside while my poor mom got stuck with the dishes. The steady “thump” when the ball smacked the glove and the “flick” sound of my nails on the laces as I released the ball was hypnotizing. Thump…flick…thump…flick… Eventually, he would ask a question, and between throws I would tell him what was wrong. He never told me what to do, only offered suggestions. He always made it clear that I was smart enough to handle my problems on my own.
- Once when I was ten, I was holding the ladder still while my father fixed a light over the garage. He got distracted by something I said, and drilled a hole right through his hand attaching himself to the wall. I screamed, but he said calmly, “No problem Kate. I just need to throw it in reverse. I’ll be fine. You should probably tell mom she will need to drive me to the hospital though.” He waited for me to leave before putting the drill in reverse. A few weeks later, he let me take out his stiches. I found that really interesting.
- At nineteen I had the opportunity to travel through Europe on a Eurail Pass for three months. I often traveled alone, and since it was before cell phones, I called my dad collect from a pay phone where ever I landed. Sometimes I called him in the middle of the night, but he would always accept the charges. The conversation would go something like this.
Dad: “Where are you now, Katie?”
Me: “East Berlin! I took the night train here to save money and it is really cool!”
Dad: “That’s great! Where are you going to sleep?”
Me: “Probably I’ll just crash on a bench in the train station or maybe in a church.”
Dad: “Okay, be careful and tell me what you learn. I love you.”
Here is one more:
- My father never had a big, high-paying job, which sometimes bothered me. I only found out why at his funeral when one of the company’s executives said, “Your father was a great man. He hired and trained me. He actually turned down a promotion because he didn’t want to spend long hours away from his family. I got the job instead, and he was very supportive.” It figures. My parents came to visit me in New York City when I was in my early twenties. Even though it was a Saturday I gave them a tour of my small office. It was about the size of a closet. My dad made a big fuss. He sat in the chair and said, “Katie, you have an office! I have worked my whole G-damned life and never had an office. It is wonderful. I am so proud of you!” He laughed and teared up a little. I said that it was no big deal and asked if he wanted to move on with the tour. He said, “You know what, I think I just want to sit here a while and take it all in.”
Take note other dads, that last one you can definitely try out on your own kids. Don’t worry about whether your children are proud of you. Just being proud of them is enough.
There are not many people in the world like my father, but luckily for me I married a man with many of the same qualities. My husband, Philipp is a dedicated teacher, but he has always put our family’s needs first. When I went back to work, he stayed home with the boys for five years. When I started my own business, he supported me by raising our sons while I galivanted to glamourous places around the world. Now, due to COVID-19 my business is gone, and occasionally I spend the day in my pajamas crying. He is still here to comfort me, cook dinner, and advise our sons. I could never have accomplished what I did without him by my side, and I am grateful.
To all of the amazing fathers out there, this year you might find yourselves stuck at home. Maybe you are laid-off from your place of work, wondering what to do next. Here is the best advice I can offer right now:
- Enjoy some of your time with your kids, they will grow up before you know it. If they are little, many of them won’t even remember you were between jobs.
- Don’t be afraid for your children to see you as a human being. They will learn how to handle hard times by watching you. If you are mad at a situation let them know it is not their fault, but that you are working out some problems right now.
- Know that your child loves you for the way you make them feel, not how big your bank account is. Ice cream and a game of catch is worth more than any expensive toy if you use the time to talk and listen
You will be in the work force for around forty-five years. You will be a parent for the rest of your life. This terrible time of 2020 (and even 2021), is short compared to the big picture of your life. Your children need you to be strong, but not perfect. You will get through this as a family. That is probably what my dad would have advised
Happy Father’s Day!