By Jill Chapin
My father has been gone for over forty years, but I saw something recently while getting a manicure that made me think of him.
A father was getting a pedicure while his young daughter waited patiently for him by using his cell phone to amuse herself.
I couldn’t imagine being a young child waiting for my dad to have his nails done because he never had the luxury of a free Saturday afternoon when our family was growing up. He worked six days a week at his grocery store, leaving early in the morning and not returning home until dinner that evening.
Yet he was somehow able to cobble together some time to occasionally take us to a ballgame or to a public pool or to an amusement park – all of this while still doing home maintenance such as mowing the lawn or painting our garage door. He was one of those fathers who was used to working hard and long hours, ever since his father died and he was forced to leave school in the eighth grade to help support his family.
As I grew up and went on to high school, my dad found the time to get his GED, getting his high school diploma around the same time I got mine. He also managed to open two more stores and once was so proud that he spilled the beans and told us that he earned $20,000 that year. I didn’t appreciate what an accomplishment that was for this junior high dropout until several years later when my boyfriend/eventual husband earned less than that shortly after receiving an MBA from Harvard.
Although he sold his businesses in his early fifties, he sure didn’t retire. He ran for mayor of our town and came in second out of three candidates. He became commander of the local chapter of the Jewish War Veterans. And he got his real estate license and sold houses throughout our community. His motto was “If I can’t sell it, I’ll buy it.” And he sometimes did, fixing it up to sell later.
He was way ahead of his time about conservation, always turning off lights we had left on after leaving a room and making sure we had no leaky faucets. He actually valued the very air we breathe, saying nothing is free, even air. That one was an eye-roller for me back then, but not now. He fostered the importance of good dental hygiene, probably because he had to have dentures at an early age. He had a beautiful baritone voice and volunteered to sing at retirement homes because he had a generous heart. But it was a weakened heart, succumbing to both his hard-working life and genetics at the age of 67.
Although it’s far too late to let him know how wonderful and sacrificing and loving he was, it’s not too late to add my story to the many that will be shared this Father’s Day as we honor our fathers. I don’t think he ever really knew how much I loved and admired him, because if I’m being honest, I’m not sure I knew it myself all those years ago.
I hope those of you with fathers still with you will take a moment to realize what it takes to be a committed and caring dad. If you do understand, don’t wait like I did until it’s too late to tell him.