My dad is, I suppose, a walking contradiction of sorts. He is an intellectual but has relied on his street smarts and uncanny ability to read people to guide him through life. He is artistic and thoughtful, but cannot resist a Mel Brooks joke about knockers. He has had every reason to bury himself in a series of tragedies and sorrows that have seemed to follow him somewhat relentlessly in life, but instead pursues happiness with a near fervor.
He grew up a first generation American living in one of the roughest immigrant neighborhoods of Hartford. He shared a room with his older sister, met his soul mate at a dance when he was 13, put himself through college, worked nights as a pharmacist while he got his law degree, rose up through the ranks of a major corporation, built a life with his wife and lived the American dream. There was a house in the suburbs and children and bat mitzvahs and birthdays and weddings and grandchildren. And in that time, he outlived his parents, two brothers, his sister and his wife.
Through it all – and whether it was or it wasn’t – he made it look easy. It is not easy to be the lone man in a house of chattering women and yet he survived, proving that it was manly to be sensitive and kind; to be strong, to be smart, to work hard and laugh hard and cry hard. And that being able to do so made him even bigger in my eyes.
But by far – the thing I love most about my father (other than how he makes my kids eyes light up when he visits) is that he has lived enough to know who he is, to know his truth, and to be okay with it. He is sincere and honest and in a society of glitz and gadgets where it’s a race to the superficial finish line, he is real. And I will never be able to thank him enough for offering me that. He is my anchor.
Thanks for it all Dad. Sorry you couldn’t get a word in at the dinner table for all those years! I love you. Happy Birthday!