It was a gorgeous day on Jones Beach. I was 6 years old, standing at the water’s edge looking up at my Dad who was talking to a complete stranger as if they had known each other forever. I was a shy kid. How does he do it? I remember asking myself.
Then, I felt a strong punch at my back. Cold wet sand against my face. The sensation of being dragged back by the powerful ocean.
I actually remember thinking at six years old... ‘Well it has been a good life.. I really can’t complain’. I remember the feeling of being powerless as the wave dragged me miles out to sea. I remember maybe thinking ‘maybe a boat would get me’.
I felt a hand around my wrist and a tug as my dad pulled me up to my feet sputtering and coughing ..and set me back on my feet. In reality I hadn’t traveled more than a few inches, but I remember looking up at him, salt water still in my eyes, and thinking “He saved my life!”. And he never stopped doing that; in big ways and little ways. By being there; being present. By stopping me from making stupid choices just to fit in.. by taking the time to actually listen as we’d talk about things. Even something as simple as throwing a football back and forth is a meaningful conversation if you are both present.. and he was; I certainly was.
It’s a unique relationship; fathers walk the path before us, without fully knowing the way themselves. They go by the path their fathers laid before them. It’s a big job, with no instruction manual other than one left for them by their fathers, which is dated.
They let us see that the journey that we are about to take, is possible, even though we may not know the best way, or the way at all. They let us see what is easy, what is difficult, by living it with us before we have to live it. They teach us their best ways to deal with difficulties, how to take the wins in life, deal with the losses and press on.
Whether we like it or not we grow up in the paths they cut.
The adage goes something like this: It’s easy to be a father, it’s hard to be a dad. Now that I’m a Dad ( “I am not tall enough to be a dad! )I see that it is more of an awesome responsibility that I ever thought. He makes it look so easy. I often thought.. how does he do it? How does he make it all happen and keep it together.
Not a single day goes by without me missing my Dad. I lost him a year ago this June. He was 98 years old. He was a great father, and had a great life. He showed me how to be a father to my kids.
I realize that not all Fathers are like him. Some get more wrapped up in their work. Some get lost in their escapes... Beaten by their demons. It’s a challenging job.
So, here’s to all the Dads who do their best and when the job asks more of them, they give it.