Father’s Day is Sunday. Here are some random thoughts and observations from the whimsical to the more serious.
It’s not Mother’s Day and never will be. The phone lines won’t be burning up coast to coast; gratefully, flowers are not a must and brunch reservations can usually be made anytime up through, well, probably this Sunday morning. Truthfully, when you drill down to the core of this special day for dads and hold it next to Mother’s Day, you realize that it’s somewhat like trying to compare Rochester’s Red Wings Stadium to the new Yankee Stadium. Yes, it’s the same game but definitely not the same ballpark. I remember when my son, Rob, was playing Little League baseball in Penfield. His coach, Brian Barney, brought a single rose for each mom on their special Sunday. When our day rolled around I was half expecting a sleeve of new golf balls from him but instead he tossed me a bat and some baseballs and told me to go warm up the outfielders. It has a ways to go, yet it does have a history. Father’s Day was conceived in 1909 by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington. She hatched the idea while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in church and the following year began celebrating a special day in June, the birth month of her dad. June 19, 1910 officially became the first Father’s Day and if history is any guide at all to the present, the first necktie was gifted 99 years ago this week. President Calvin Coolidge in 1924, supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Then in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day. President Richard Nixon signed the law which finally made it permanent in 1972.
OK, so I made light of the necktie but seriously, the truth is that for the most part it doesn’t excite guys at all and after some 25 years the tie rack is filling up. Let me explain how men think. All the women reading this right now are thinking: "yeah right, that can be done in 15 words or less." Well, you are mostly correct, but still I can illustrate by comparing our gender to women. When I married my wife, Paula, 28 years ago she gave me one simple rule when it came to gifts – “never, never, ever give me a gift with a cord attached.” That simple rule has served me quite well over the years. But guys are radically different. We in fact like cords. Power tools, televisions, computers, pretty much anything electronic – and we like other simple amusements that don’t require much effort: concert tickets, books, and gadgets, and anything with the suffix “ball” attached to it (golf ball, basketball, football, baseball -- you get the idea). For me, the origins of this syndrome date back to my earliest childhood. If I pulled a gift from my collection at my birthday parties and it was soft and flexible it usually meant clothes – often socks – usually from my aunts and always immediate disappointment. So keep it simple, buy it with a cord or relate it to sports – or tickets to a sporting event or concert perhaps. He’ll love it. He’ll love you.
Find a quiet spot this Sunday and reflect about your dad for a moment or two. What made/makes him special in your eyes? My own father was a giant of a man. No, I don’t mean in the sense of the 1960s ballad about Big John, the miner rescuing other miners. Well, maybe that too but as a little kid he was actually a giant – all 6’4” 225 lbs of him. One of my fondest memories dates back to a family vacation we took to Ocean City, Maryland. I was 4 years old and immediately began to hone my skills as a negotiator – enhanced, apparently, by some uncontrollable tantrums. It was all about the circular boat rides next to the huge ferris wheel. Every time he tried to get me off I sobbed, begging for just one more ride – "just one more that’s all!" He patiently indulged me – again and again and again -- until he finally lost patience. I decided it was a good time to move on to the next ride. The other part of the trip I recall involved my first plunge into a swimming pool. My dad stood in the water and even at that age I was smart enough to know that if the water was up to his chest in the pool it was way too deep for me. I’m sure this was all about one of life’s important lessons and the meaning of trust but truthfully, even though I am a competent swimmer I always subscribed to the theory that if humans were meant to swim we would not have evolved to walking on two legs on dry land. He coaxed me, I trusted him; he caught me securely, we bonded. He supported me and encouraged me in everything I did or ever attempted to do in life.
In February of this year I wrote a column titled “Living a Purposeful Life.” It was about my good friend, Chris Trotto, who died suddenly last September at age 58. He went upstairs to take a nap and never woke up. The message of the writing was simple. Go find a loved one right now and hug him or her. Appreciate that person because life is precious and you never truly know what lies ahead. Yesterday, some 100 new attorneys were sworn in by my former Court, the Appellate Division, 4th Department. Among the newest attorneys was Chris’ son, Jonathan. Chris used to often talk about that swearing in day and how wonderful it was going to be -- a father/son law firm and his good friend swearing Jonathan in to the practice of law. It didn’t work out that way and Chris died just 10 days after Jonathan’s law school graduation on September 14h. The qualities he instilled in his son are on display daily. He appreciates his dad. I am proud to be practicing law with him.
Yesterday was truly a “father’s day.” I felt my good friend’s presence as the oath was administered to his son.
Take time to remember. Take time to appreciate. And, of course, gifts are always welcome (see above).