Father's Day is approaching, and once again I am searching for a suitable greeting card to give my Dad. Hallmark writers are gifted, but they never seem to come up with anything appropriate for my father. As I conduct my annual hunt, I wonder. What truly makes a good dad?
Is a man a good dad if he is regularly seen about town with his brood in tow, as Brad Pitt often is? Is he a good dad if he uses his contacts and influence to pave the professional path for his children, as Will Smith has done for his offspring? Is a gentleman a good dad if he carries his baby in a trendy baby carrier strapped to his chest, a la Matthew Broderick? Does a good dad name all his sons after himself, as George Foreman did, to remind them where they come from? Maybe a man is a good dad when he fills a McMansion with the latest toys and gadgets, takes the kids to Burger King every week, or makes the child support payments on time.
I suppose celebrities like Brad Pitt, et al. are good dads, but so is my father, and he doesn't take bows nor have his picture in the paper all the time to prove it.
Our family lived an ordinary life in a cozy colonial sans the latest gadgets. In fact, we had a black and white television long after my friends all got color consoles. Despite viewing programs in monochrome, my sister and I were luckier than most. Our parents didn't regard television as a babysitter; rather, viewing was a family activity. The best seat in the house was Dad's lap where I watched Flipper (Dad liked the sound Flipper made) or Bonanza (I didn't like that one, but watched it just to be with Dad). Back then, fast food restaurants like Burger King were as non-existent as the disposable income they demanded, but every once in a while Dad splurged and took us to Cosmos, a family restaurant with a mini-amusement park in the back and plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers inside. I could go on and on and on with similar memories; Dad instinctively knew how to turn the average day into a holiday.
My Dad taught me many things (how to put ketchup on a hot dog, toss pennies into the stream, dip my toes into Clove Lake, feed the squirrels peanuts), but one lesson stands out: the true definition of a good dad. A man is a good Dad when, like my father, he dedicates himself to his children, laughs and loves freely, thereby transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Though I did not find a Father's Day card suitable for my Dad, I did come across a poem I rather like. The words are unpretentious, like my Dad; the sentiment is subtle, yet strong, like my Dad.
My Father by Yehuda Amichai
The memory of my father is wrapped up in
white paper, like sandwiches taken for a day at work.
Just as a magician takes towers and rabbits
out of his hat, he drew love from his small body
and the rivers of his hands
overflowed with good deeds.
With deep thanks for “the rivers of your hands”, all you are and all you have given me, I wish you Happy Father's Day, Dad. I will forever love you.