Like many fathers, Father’s Day doesn’t always get the props it deserves. In 2013, Americans spent an average of $119.84 on dad, according to a National Retail Foundation survey. That sounds like a lot, until you compare it with the survey’s figure for mothers ($169).
But the depth of our affections isn’t measured in gifts, and we don’t love and respect our fathers 30 percent less than our mothers. Our connections are deep and vitally important to us — even after they’re gone.
Though Next Avenue contributor Carol Orsborn lost her father years ago, she says being “daddy’s little girl” continues to enhance her life into her 60s. For 15 years of her school-age performances, his presence in the front row gave her a confidence she came to internalize. “Whether I got a curtain call or fluffed my lines, he always made me feel as if I’d stolen the show,” she says.
In a moving blog about the roles she and her dad played in each other’s lives, Orsborn recounts the enduring lessons that relationship taught her.
Different Strokes for Different Blokes
Health and Caregiving editor Gary Drevitch lost his father to Parkinson’s last year. But as the father of three kids under 13, he still enjoys a lively celebration on the third Sunday of June. He recently reflected on the 46-year age gap between his dad and himself and how that led to wildly different styles of parenting.
Drevitch Senior, for instance, never helped with the meals, while Gary works from home and feeds the kids breakfast and makes their school lunches every day. (Dinner in their busy Manhattan household is a bit less routine.) His dad didn’t discuss school, grades or extracurricular activities with his children, nor did he yell. Gary frequently talks about these things, as well as future challenges with his kids, who, he says, “have conditioned themselves not to pay attention to anything I ask them to do until I raise my voice.” In hindsight, however, he has come to realize that his father was paying a lot more attention than he let on — in his own way.
Like Father, Like Daughter
Many of us think fondly about our fathers and remember the things we had in common with them or what they taught us. (And some are lucky enough to still get to enjoy those things.) Chef, recipe developer and cookbook author Joanna Pruess recalls that it wasn’t her mother who fed her career aspirations; it was her father, whose “impromptu inventions in the kitchen fostered my love of creative cooking.” She adds that when he “got the urge to create, whatever he found in the fridge or pantry was fair game.”
Pruess says it took her years before she “connected Dad’s spontaneous weekend concoctions with the haute cuisine pâtés I learned to make (and adore) while studying at le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Although there are strict rules for classic French cuisine at culinary school, I always felt somehow … liberated … to explore and invent.”
Should He Stay or Should He Go?
Whether our fathers were positive influences, like Orsborn’s and Pruess’, or negative ones like Next Avenue’s former managing editor Larry Carlat’s, their influence in our lives never really goes away. On the occasion of Father’s Day, Carlat reflects on how the fact that his own dad wasn’t around much (for a very surprising reason) led him to stay in an untenable marriage.
Then there are those people who never get over losing their fathers. I happen to be friends with Robert Edelstein, whose bittersweet story about the last days of his father’s life moved me to tears. (But some were tears of hysterical laughter when I recalled the stories he’d share about “Stan,” imitating his father in a voice that in no way resembled how Mr. Edelstein actually spoke.)
Theirs was one of those tight-knit families that you thought went the way of shows like Father Knows Best. Equal parts love and humor bound them tightly together. When Rob knew the end was near for his dad, he developed what he considered an odd obsession with his father’s hands and felt compelled to not only hold them but to photograph them.
Only months later did he realize the multitude of things his father’s hands had symbolized to him, having observed them them closely his entire life: from how to properly turn a steering wheel to the way his father’s wedding band symbolized the very concept of marriage to him.
Whether you’re a father or married to one, whether yours is still alive or long gone, your blood-deep connection to him cannot be denied. So this Sunday, regardless of which side of the $119.84 mark you fall on, take a moment to reflect on the real meaning of the day.