Father’s Day

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Today is Father’s Day.

My father passed away unexpectedly in 1989. It was the end of June. I had just graduated from university, and it was the week that I was packing and moving out to California for law school. I lived in Buffalo, and my father lived near Seattle.

I had seen him just a few weeks before. He had made the trip – not easy for him – out to Buffalo to see me graduate, and to see me accepted in to Phi Beta Kappa. That was very important to him, and he was so proud of me. He himself had graduated Summa from Princeton – no slouch was he.

He had stayed with me, and attended my graduation, and my going away party. I had surprised him by turning that party into a birthday party for him, as his birthday had been just a few weeks earlier. When they wheeled the cake in, which said “Happy Birthday” in Russian (my father had been a Russian translator for most of his adult life, even though he was neither Russian nor had even learned Russian until he was an adult), it was a lovely surprise.

We also had a wonderful, deep talk during that visit. A talk in which I told him how much he meant to me – what a wonderful father he had been and how much he had given me. He hadn’t thought so at all. I made sure he knew. Knew that I loved him dearly, and appreciated those things he had given to me – which I listed for him: a passion for reading, the skill and knowledge of proper use of our language – both spoken and written, a love of classical music, the ability to read and play music, and an appreciation of art.

I had been so excited that I was going to live so much closer to him. I dreamed of the day that I would be a law school graduate, well-employed, and able to help him out. To take care of him.

And then, he was gone.

When the phone rang in the middle of the night that night, I already knew. I won’t say how I knew – that’s a story for another time – perhaps – but I knew. I was already in tears (as, indeed, I am now). I didn’t want to take the call, but of course not taking the call wouldn’t change anything. As I hung up the phone, my first thought was “now I’m an orphan.”

But my very next thought – even in that unspeakable anguish of having just lost a parent, was “I’m so grateful that we had that talk.”

I cannot begin to express how very grateful I was, and am, that I had the chance to say those things to him, and that I said them to him when I did. Because if I hadn’t then, I would never have had the chance. And he would have gone to his grave thinking that he was a terrible father. That might have been his last thought as he sank to the ground (which he did) – that he had failed his daughter.

Instead, he went knowing that I loved him and thought him a wonderful father, who had given me some of the most important things in life.

I am so very grateful for that.

And damn it, if you haven’t said these things – these most important of things – to your father, now, while you can, then do it. Now.

Because at any moment it could be too late.

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