If you’ve never had a tooth extracted, I can assure you that it is everything you’d imagine and more, especially since I opted out of the general anesthesia that would’ve rendered me unconscious during the procedure.
At 85, my father is full of optimism and humor. You would never guess that at the age of sixteen he was a victim of the greatest atrocity of the 20th century.
My 93-year-old father emerged as a different person when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago. He became independent, assertive, interested and engaging. When my mother died in October, he even became a bit spiritual. He’s certainly not the exhausted father with whom I grew up, who often didn’t know what to say to me. As a teenager and young adult, I never thought we would have much of a relationship. But now, as I approach 60 and he nears 94, the engagement between us has blossomed, as it has with my brother and all our children. The relationship he now has with my wife has become his most significant. She handles his money.
Parenthood is ultimately about becoming redundant in your child’s life. It’s difficult to comprehend as you hold your newborn baby in your arms, but if you do your job as a parent correctly, your services will ultimately no longer be necessary. The art and the joy of parenthood is how to raise a self-reliant child who grows to become a self-reliant adult. How do we pass on to our children the knowledge, skills, values and beliefs they will need so that the teaching will remain with them when we are no longer ever-present?
Dad has always been reaching -- not just to satisfy himself, but also to prove himself to the big guys, the great newspaper people in his head who might, somehow, in their wisdom, someday give him their blessing of approval
Every year, as the third Sunday in June approaches, it happens: along with the ads for neckties and iPods come the endless conversations on single-mom blogs
and parenting sites about what to do on Father's Day with kids like mine who don't have fathers.
Shawn Slovo remembers how her Jewish parents, African National Congress activists, left home in the middle of the night to attend secret meetings. All the while, she said, she resented "having to share my parents with a cause much greater than myself."
My dad loved my act. He thought I was the funniest person in the world.
My name is Rachel, and I am a Jewish American girl who was born in China.
Sure, I've dated a fair amount, but the over-70 age range is one even I haven't yet ventured into. Don't have a clue as to what those gals have on their mind. But judging from the women I do know, I'm guessing cats and jewelry wouldn't be too far off.
In his raw, autobiographical monologue, "Who Is Floyd Stearn?" actor Michael Raynor struts onstage with a swagger reminiscent of James Caan. Raynor, playing himself, jabs a finger at a faded photograph.
The photo was taken on 185th Street in Queens, on his grandmother's lawn. In the photo, an athletic, brawny man embraces a 3-year-old. The man is Raynor's father, Floyd Stearn. The smiling boy is young Michael, who clutches a toy banjo, his blond bangs peeking out from a cowboy hat.
Raynor tells the audience that, even at 40, he cannot discuss the photo; should anyone pressure him, he angrily departs.
"Every time I see the picture I cry," he adds quietly. "That's why I can't look at it. I see the happiness in my face, and it scares me. I'm hoping it won't go away."
In one night, I had dinner at an all-you-can eat salad bar in Arcadia, met my father's first girlfriend in 25 years and weathered a nearly disastrous poetry emergency.
Sound the onomatopoetic sirens; this thing was a relationship 911. Free verse was about to cost my father the best relationship of his life. And it was my fault. What rhymes with "Zero tact"?
So there I was, sitting across the table from dad's new girlfriend, trying to impress her, using my best table manners, eating forkfuls of canned beets on my self-consciously dainty salad and thinking to myself: "This is just weird."
My blind date, Scott, likes college hoops, '80s TV and helping others. I like his cute tuchus. I'm thinkin' we'd make a fine pair of Jews. We stray from the first date playbook and follow a Santa Monica dinner with a Main Street stroll. As we walk past yet a third unique boutique on our way to get dessert (that we don't want) and more time together (which we do), Scott says those three little words that can rock a girl's world. "There's my car."
It's a PT Cruiser -- washed and waxed today, valid registration, parked less than 12 inches from the curb. No fuzzy dice, high school tassel or pine-scented Playmate air freshener. The car doesn't scream "show-off" or "shady," Speed Racer or gas guzzler. What it screams is middle-aged dad. More specifically -- my dad.
A few months ago, I asked my father, now happily retired, what profession he would choose if he were starting over again.
"Oh, I'd do the same thing," Dad said. "I'd be a salesman."
"Yes. I'm good at it."
It's Father's Day, and I am so glad that Dad is around to read this: Dad, I had you wrong.
"Welcome home, Marlene. It's about time you joined my family," my father said. He was greeting the news that well into the age of wisdom, I've finally begun eating sardines.
My Dad is hard to shop for. Whatever gift we come up with is usually met with the phrase "You kids shouldn't have spent the money," followed by "Is this returnable?" In honor of Father's Day next week, I thought I'd give him about 800 words to say whatever he wants. What follows is what he wrote.
From "The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things," by Rabbi Steven Z. Leder (Behrman House, Inc.)
"A parent's love isn't to be paid back; it can only be passed on."-- Herbert Tarr
Tomorrow is Father's Day, and we are thousands of miles apart -- apart as we are too often and for too long. So it seems a good time to write you and tell you -- dear God, what to tell you? How can a son possibly say what a father means to him -- how can I say what you mean to me?