I have a theory about fathers. Well, I have a theory about almost everything, but my theory about fathers is based on my very own dad — the man who ever so gently helped guide me to be the independent woman that I am.
I believe most happily independent women (and men) of our time had fathers who used quiet and sometimes not-so-quiet strength along with a great sense of humor and the ability to lead— and then, when the time is right, let go. Now I don’t mean the strength to lift heavy boxes of bricks, but the strength to let us know that there is a “right” and a “wrong” in this world and it is our job to side with those doing good — using our brains and a sense of humor, of course.
It’s not a simple task being a father today — the definition seems to change as our perceptions change. But in my modern-old fashioned world, my dad and my friends’ dads all played huge roles in shaping our minds.
Of course they provided much of the “funny” of my childhood. I remember my dad wearing a pair of shoes that were at least two sizes too big just to amuse me and an elementary school pal. He put those shoes on and instantly a clown was born. We giggled until we could giggle no more. And my dad played it straight, knowing that would make the adventure all the more fun for us.
Now we never thought about “playing dumb” around my dad. Math? No problem. My siblings and I were all pretty good if not excellent math students. No excuses— no math phobias — just a careful assist from him when we needed a bit of tutoring with some convoluted equation.
And with our writing we had no better audience. He was never a harsh critic, always a welcome fan—giving his analysis only after being prompted. Respectful, yet if there was something that could be improved, he would oh-so-gently share his thoughts. If only I had inherited more of that gentleness — it is missing from so many interactions these days — but I think that need for gentleness with strength is one of the reasons “Auntie Jodi’s Helpful Hints” was born.
As a teen, I remember telling my dad about a potion I had read about that would regrow hair for men who were losing their hair. Of course we had a plan for rubbing that concoction of ground hot pepper and vodka on his head every night without anyone else knowing. The smell along with the crazy color of his scalp gave us away after a few days. No additional hair sprouted, but what did sprout was my awareness of my super-smart dad’s super-duper way of being the most fun dad on the planet.
When I was a career-driven 20-something, my sweet dad took me aside and told me that there was more to life than corporate-career success. Seeing how frustrated I was with a particular boss, my sweet old-fashioned/new-fashioned dad suggested that things like having a family and building a life with someone might be fulfilling to me. As successful as he was, I think — in fact I know — his greatest joys in life came from being with the family that he and my mother created. But I wasn’t ready to hear his ideas about those things for a few years. And by waiting as I have, I almost missed the proverbial boat on that one.
I can remember weeping on the phone to my dad about a crazy boss at yet another crazy job, hundreds of miles away. He’d tell me to “come home” time and time again—reassuring me that I could find a job anywhere. He had more confidence in me than I did. And yes, it was wonderful knowing that someone as wonderful as my dad believed in me.
Watching any baseball, football, or basketball game is just not the same without my dad. He taught us strategy for the games and provided us with our very own play-by-play analysis. The complexities of any sport would quickly be broken down so that we could follow and root for our favorites. Every day as I read parts of the sports page, I think of how my dad would interpret the latest trade or scandal — most likely shaking his head in disbelief.
My dad had a smile that everyone always talked about— because he did not just smile using his mouth, he used his eyes and his heart and you knew when he smiled at you there was a Big Bunch of Daddy Love headed your way. I remember that smile the last time we rode together in the back of an ambulance. He was the patient—I was along for the ride—and still, with all those machines hooked up to him, he opened his eyes, saw me, and gave me a wink with that smile. That was the very last time he’d ever wink at me, sending me a very private message in a very public place.
So that’s what the best dads do — they guide us, they counsel us, they teach us. But most of all, they love us. And for that I am forever grateful.
I love you Dad. Happy Father’s Day.
Adler is the author of the book “Auntie Jodi’s Helpful Hints.” www.auntiejodi.com