This Father’s Day will be my 24th one. I only had 15 Father’s Days with my dad so I’m aware not to take any one of them for granted. But this Father’s Day will hold extra meaning for this may well be the last one my two sons will be home to celebrate with me in person. Son Number One leaves in 3 weeks for Salt Lake City, while Son Number Two leaves in 3 months for San Luis Obispo.
As s child, I still recall being super excited to celebrate both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. After Christmas and my birthday, those were my two favorite special days of the year because it provided me an opportunity to thank my parents and show them how much I loved them.
Following in the footsteps of my older brother and sister, we would make our own greeting cards, and decorate the walls with oversized signs before they woke up in the morning. The highlight of the day, however, was watching them react to our cards, most often tearing up.
We weren’t the type of family who hugged a lot or said “I Love You” so the cards quietly, deeply exuded our feelings.
The greatest gift my parents gave to us three kids was in teaching us to be decent people. None of us kids ever got involved in serious trouble or drug use or unexpected pregnancies. To this day, the three of us remain close and much of it has to do with Mom and Dad.
Likewise, all my wife and I wanted in rearing our children was for them to be happy and successful people who contributed positively to society, knowing right from wrong.
We wanted our kids to be aware of the world’s wonders which is why so many of our family vacations were at national parks.
We also wanted our kids to have an interest in what was happening in the world so that they would be good citizens.
That’s why I would enthusiastically share with them a newspaper story or a “60 Minutes” segment of compassionate individuals such as the athlete who visited sick children in hospitals without publicity, or of the centenarian lawyer who helped defeat the Nazis and who still gets emotional thinking of the horrors that he saw.
As the days grow short before their departures, is there anything else I can do as a father or words of wisdom to pass on that I overlooked? Any old movies or songs that I need to play for them before they forever go out of my influence? One more Sinatra song? One more Astaire dance?
As each of them embark on a new journey—one to start a career, the other to start college—all my wife and I can do now is be observers. We had our two decades’ worth of bringing them up; now they are on their own.
Last Father’s Day, we traveled up to Montecito to eat breakfast at a favorite restaurant, an activity I normally abhor due to the crowds. But we hadn’t done much traveling for the previous two years so we made the nearly two-hour drive north to Lucky’s.
We asked the waitress to take a photo of us which has now become my desktop’s wallpaper, an image I see each morning I turn on the computer. And we will make the same venture up north this Father’s Day, and sit at the same exact table as we did last year, and have a new photo to memorialize the day. Just the four of us. And always have a memory of how happy our little family was before the little birdies left the nest.