Each Father’s Day, I look at my friends’ pictures of their “best ever” dads on facebook and in blogs. While I love and miss my own father, who died in 2003, it would be so far beyond ludicrous to call him a good father that if I got anywhere near that territory, my siblings would respond, “WTF, Caryn?” (excuse the F-word — we grew up in New Jersey where there were stiff penalties for not using it regularly). Yet I have witnessed and continue to delight in best-ever dads all around me, so this post is for them:
- My Step-Father Henry: Henry was a sterling example of letting love lead the way. A relatively quiet man who found himself in the middle of our opposite-of-quiet (and prone to bursting out into musical numbers) family, he brought all of us peace, love and understanding. Once, during a horrific fight with my sister, after which she ran to her room and I ran outside, Henry steadily aimed himself to support all sides, comforting her, and then finding me, sitting on a curb across the street. He made me feel welcome, reminded me this, too, would pass, and invited me back in the house. Years later at a Thanksgiving in Orlando at my other sister’s house, Henry gave our whole family a beautiful Thanksgiving card, thanking him for welcoming him with so much love into our family even though he brought a trunk-load of that love with him. He was a wonderful husband/companion to my mother for more than two decades, and we all miss him fiercely.
- My Father-in-Law Gene: If it’s true that you can measure your luck in a husband by his father, I hit the jackpot. My father-in-law was simply one of the kindest people on the planet. Not only did he accept me as one of his own way back when, but he went out of his way to make my life (and the lives of everyone he knew as well as had barely met) better. He had a key to our house, so it became commonplace for me to come home, dragging toddlers and balancing shopping bags, to find a perfect vase of red roses on the kitchen table. “I knew my n0-good son wouldn’t get you roses, and they were on sale,” he joked with me later. He also got my mother-in-law red roses. He was our go-to source when our babies needed serious rocking and holding, and like all the Lassman men, he embraced all aspects of caring for kids, from birth on up (yes, he even changed diapers). He went out of his way to make the days of grocery store checkers, neighbors, and family better. We’ll miss him all our lives.
- My Brother Barry: Some men are born to be dads, and that’s the calling of Barry. Father to two teens, he has been completely devoted to his kids for every breath they’ve taken. He encourages, supports, listens to, talks with, cheers on and stays completely present with his children. Lately, he’s been taking lots of photographs to document their soccer careers, but having seen him with his kids at many family gatherings, I know he’s equally there for them in all other aspects of their lives. Taking after my mother’s loving nature, Barry shows his son how to be a man of integrity, strength and love, and his daughter that she’s deeply loved by such a man and should never settle for less.
- My Friend Lou: Several weeks ago at Lou’s memorial service, each of his sons and most of his grandchildren spoke of how family was at the center of his life. His best revenge against the Holocaust (that took all in his extended family except his brother) was to live a life of meaning, compassion, activism and love. During the years I interviewed him for the book I wrote about him and Jarek, he turned ecstatic whenever discussing anyone in his family. No surprise that everyone in his family, and just about everyone who met him, adored him.
- My Husband Ken: Ken was also born to be a father, and from the day Daniel was born through the present, he’s completely present in the lives of our children. Natalie has wrapped herself against him all her life while watching movies, Forest runs up to Ken with sports scores to discuss nuances of teams far from here, and Daniel asks Ken for advice on challenging social situations. Ken can talk to our kids about just about anything, but he’s also phenomenal at just hanging out with them, making our home a refuge for each as they navigate the wilds of becoming adults. His fathering makes me a better mother, and I’m blessed to have done this crazy-baby-life-goes-to-hell thing with him, so Happy Fathers Day, Ken!
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads past, present and future out there.
Pictures (from top): Henry, Gene and a sleeping Daniel, Barry with Daniel, Lou and his grandchildren, Ken with Natalie and Daniel