My Dad in Six Words

This time last year, my father chewed me out. I wrote about my memories of Father’s Day, my wedding anniversary (June 19), and my husband’s birthday (June 20); three events that take place in rapid succession in the month of June. Three events, which in my mind, all relate to my husband. And why was my dad upset? Because I didn’t acknowledge HIS Father’s Day, HIS wedding anniversary (also June 19), or HIS birthday (June 22). Seriously. He was upset. So, this year – in an attempt to heal a wound – I’m thinking and writing about my father in honor of Father’s Day. (Which, I must confess, is not an easy task.)

My dad and I have always gotten along. We can talk for hours on just about any topic. I fondly remember him taking us horseback riding, ice skating, and out for ice cream when my sisters, brother, and I were kids. I remember the bedtime stories he read us – in particular Winnie-the-Pooh – when he’d start with, “Chapter One. In whhhiiiicccchhh…” in a deep husky voice. But, he was far from a pushover. He often was impatient, demanded excellence, and had a temper. Sometimes, he was downright scary.

In May, the Jewish Forward published an article that challenged people to describe their mothers – or their relationship with their mothers – in just six words. The results were funny and often extremely poignant. Why just six words? It seems the impetus was Ernest Hemingway.  Hemingway was once challenged to write a novel in just six words. His response allegedly was “For sale: Baby shoes never worn.” Wow.

Now that I’m a grown woman, and my father is in his early seventies, how can I (and how would he) sum up the life he’s lived so far? More importantly, what have I learned from the examples (both good and not-so-good) that he set? How would I describe HIM (or something about him) in just six words? Here are a few attempts…

Dead father. Bitter mother. Needed therapy.

My dad’s early life was very difficult. He had a very sick father who died when he was fifteen and a mother who resented being a nursemaid. Then there was estrangement from the larger family…a lot of dysfunction. Yet he moved on and built a good life. Personally, I think my dad could have benefited from therapy!

Harvard potential traded for family priorities.

My father graduated Harvard, married immediately, and I was born a year later. By the time he was thirty, he had four kids – a growing family to support and care for. A career with IBM offered financial stability and security. He never seemed fulfilled with his various business roles and responsibilities, but always pushed his kids to maximize their potential.

Introverted guy married to extroverted woman.

My mother is the social butterfly that flits around him, organizing the social calendar and keeping them on the move. For the most part, he hates being forced to go out and engage with others socially. He does what he has to do, but certainly isn’t the center of the conversation! He much prefers being at home in his chair watching a ball game or working on the computer or reading a book.

My dad wants to be needed.

As we’ve grown up and moved on to live our own lives, my siblings and I sought our father’s advice and counsel less and less. I know this has been hard for him. So, I personally have made a conscious effort through the years to keep him engaged in my life as much as possible. As a result, we’ve always had something to talk about. It’s not the same as being “needed,” but I think my father would agree that our relationship certainly keeps him “involved” with my family’s daily life.

I love and respect you, Daddy.

On this Father’s Day, this is how I choose to sum up my father in just six words…


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