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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Daddy

Little boys think that their fathers are the coolest men in the world. They believe that their fathers have mystical abilities to know the unknown and to do the undoable. They think that their fathers are capable of deeds beyond the capabilities of other, run-of-the-mill men. Little boys cannot conceive of any sort of fatherly imperfection, personality flaw, or inadequacy. Though they often cling and clutch to their mommies for safety and security, comfort and calmness; little boys look up to their daddies.

My father left Israel for America thirty-seven years ago. He left behind his parents, his brother and his sisters, his mustache, his culture and his homeland. The only thing he couldn't manage to leave behind was his accent. He would go back the first time because he was ordered to return by the military. The second time he went back, it was to show off his new bride and daughter to his family. Subsequent trips were for darker reasons-- to see his father lie on his deathbed, putting two fingers to his lips, silently asking for a cigarette. To bury his sister, who died by her hand. To say goodbye.

Now his side of the family mostly live in Australia, England and a couple here and there in the U.S. His immediate family has stayed close-- we wouldn't know where to go anyway. He is involved in our daily lives and, though we'd perhaps like to be more grown up sometimes, we're always relieved when he is there to save the day, make a phone call, yell at someone who dares to cross our paths. These are the times when the desert warrior comes out of hiding. He's effectively camoflauged in his button-down shirts and his dress-slacks from day to day, but if you dare mess with his children: watch out. Payback's a bitch, but Israeli payback's worse.

When I was at their house for dessert on Saturday, I asked my parents what time we used to have dinner when I was a kid. I couldn't remember and, for some reason, it popped into my head to ask.

"6:00," my mother said. "We always waited until Daddy got home."

"I was always home for dinner, I made sure of that," my father said.

Yeah. He sure fucking did. He would rise at 5:00am every goddamn day so that he could always be home for dinner-- not exactly the sort of schedule you might expect for someone who ran his own business. He still does it to this day, so that he can be home for dinner with my mother. If you asked me what I admire most about my father, it's that he was always home for dinner.

I'm failing at that now, and I know it. I teach classes at night. I'm at work covering other classes. I'm acting in shows, I'm doing this or that. I try to be home as often as I can for dinner, but I'm not always. Hardly. We always try to do just a little better than our parents did, but I find that I'm doing worse at some things. I've got to try harder. Mrs. Apron needs me. Someday, there will be kids who need me, too.

They'll need me home for dinner.

Being Israeli, my father doesn't give a shit about his birthday. It's meaningless to him. If we didn't all call him up and wish him a happy birthday, I doubt he'd even remember about it until it was over, maybe three or four days later. He was always a man who put us before him, not a selfish bone in his body, and, for someone so exuberent and outgoing, you'd think he'd love a little birthday spotlight shining down on his balding head. But that's not who he is. Maybe the one and only thing that appeals to my father about his birthday is that it's a convenient excuse to get everybody home for dinner-- but I won't be there tonight, because my wife was just sick and my sister is pregnant-- and my mother is worried about her getting sick. I understand that, but I'm sad about. I'm definitely sad.

While I know now that my father has imperfections and inadequacies, there's still that piece of me that thinks he's most definitely the coolest man in the world, that he is capable of anything, that his abilities are beyond those of the common man. One thing's for sure, though: I won't be buying him some gay #1 Dad mug or t-shirt or apron to celebrate his "special day." He's not into getting presents anyway.

I know I'll find some way to see my father tonight, even if it's just for a quick chat and a hug on the front lawn of the house where I grew up.

1 comment:

  1. Just popping in to say hi, thanks for your comment, and that i'm a new fan of your blog! Email me your postal address and i'll send you something crafy - giving your dad a birthday hug looks like payin it forward enough for me, its all about doing something nice and unexpected for others! :)


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