Friday, June 14, 2013

Fathers and Sons

Sunday will be the first Father's Day in which Chuck plays the roles of both a father and a son. I suppose it would be appropriate for me to impart some paternal wisdom that has been handed down from generation to generation, but, in fact, I don't recall that my father and I ever had a conversation about what fatherhood was about.

My father's father came to the United States from Greece in 1911.  Mostly, I've been told, he sold flowers on the street corner. However else he managed to eke out a living, he was able to provide for his family.

Though he was illiterate, my grandfather would carry a newspaper with him every day so that people would not know. As a kid, my father thought that his father was stupid and a fool for pretending he could read. Years later, it occurred to him that his father's deception was an object lesson in the importance of education; he got respect because people thought he could read and write. So it must have made him proud that all four of his children graduated high school.

Growing up, I often resented the fact that my father was not home much. In addition to being a New York City firefighter, working alternating day and night shifts that changed on a weekly basis, he had side businesses as an insurance broker and a tax preparer. As a result, it seemed that he was always working a lot more than he was home; certainly he was not like the fathers of my friends, who were home for dinner every night. That he missed a number of plays, football games, and other school events that I was in seemed to me a sign that he didn't care.

And yet, somewhere along the way, he taught me how to throw and catch. He took me to ball games at Yankee Stadium and to the very first Jets game ever played at Shea Stadium. He took my brothers and me to Palisades Amusement Park every summer. He even took me to the firehouse where he worked and let me climb on the fire truck. (He never let me slide down the pole, though!)

More importantly, there was food on the table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads. While we never lived extravagantly, there was also never any question that all the bills would be paid and any emergencies could be dealt with. It was not until years later, when I was on my own and married, that I realized this was because my father was working so much.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is that sons do not always understand why their fathers do what they do. That said, there is probably something I did when Chuck was growing up that he has or will come to see in a different light. And someday he will explain it to Alex...

1 comment:

  1. And I'm sure there was a time in your youth when someone noticed how you were perceiving it all and told you how you'd feel different when you became an adult. Funny how it turns out to be true.