Happy Birthday Dad

 It is with much regret that I find myself so far from home today, my dad’s birthday. I know he understands why I can’t be there, and he’s too modest to want any attention, but it’s not every day a fellow turns 60.

If there was ever a role model for a boy to grow into a man, he is a head above the rest. I’ve truly never met a better father, a better husband, a better friend, a better teacher. My dad taught me by example and by virtue.

In a rush to show me what is cool he taught me to ski at three years old. Though I had little choice in going, he never forced me to stay on the mountain any longer than I wanted to. By doing so gave me a love for the sport. He taught me some things aren’t things worth doing unless you enjoy them. By the same token, he taught me that most worthy pursuits require discipline and hard work. He validated those hackneyed but noble dadisms by examplifying them: ‘you reap what you sew’, ‘you get in what you get out’, ‘practice makes perfect’, ‘a commitment is a commitment’.

He taught me the great satisfaction that comes from creating something beautiful, whether it be made of wood or words, in the garden or in the kitchen. He taught me not only how to make something, to make anything, but the integrity to make something worth being proud of. Echoing the words of his own father, he would always say to me, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” He demonstrated that purity with every house project we completed together, every school assignment he helped me with. He taught me to be meticulous and perfectionist, not for the grade but for the virtue. He taught me to be humble.

He taught me to love art and seek beauty in all forms. He shared with me the architecture of the Greeks and Romans, the sculptures of the Renaissance, the paintings of the Impressionists. He showed me rock and roll. He gifted me with an insatiable appetite for music, and a discerning taste for what is good. The soundtrack of my childhood can be found in his massive CD case. Since he gave me my first Walkman we have ritualized visits to the record store to discover and share music together, a tradition that is more alive than ever today as we grow our vinyl collections.

He taught me to be healthy. The man is a machine, never failing to miss his morning workout. No weekend was fulfilled if we weren’t doing something physical, and ideally in the outdoors. He taught me to eat well and to eat consciously. It should be no mystery the dude looks 10 year younger than his contemporaries.

He taught me play by the rules, but that it’s okay to bend them when no one is looking and no one gets hurt. He never once grounded me when I disobeyed him. He never had to. The greatest punishment was to disappoint him. He’s never failed to let me know when I’ve made him proud.

He taught me to be a gentleman. He’s never shown an inch of disrespect toward my mother, telling me more often than she knows how much he loves her. Under his roof it was never an option to fight with my sister. In no uncertain terms he taught me it was my job to protect her.

He taught me how to laugh and to be laughed at. He has a devilishly clever sense of humor (some have said he taught me that too), and if you don’t want to be the victim of it you better keep up. Rarely has there been a dull moment in his company. He taught me it’s okay to overstep the boundaries of good taste. “The first sign of death,” he’s often said, “is losing the child inside of you.”

He taught me how to have a good time and play as hard as you work. When the wine starts flowing you better watch out for us, most likely leaning over the pool table, walking between the horseshoe stakes, or conversing around the fire. He taught me to make a damn strong margarita.

He instilled me with the spirit to travel to new lands and explore what I don’t yet understand. He’s encouraged my every adventure, egging me on to push my limits and take calculated risks, so long as I come home safe and not worry my mother beyond a reasonable degree. He taught me to be myself, to follow my dreams, and to fight hard to realize them. He’s never once put himself before me.

He taught me to be compassionate, to love my fellow human and respect the sanctity of the earth. He taught me to stand up for the weak, understand my adversary, and be true to what I believe. He taught me it’s okay to cry when warranted and that a real man isn’t afraid to say I love you.

In the end he taught me how to teach myself. Maybe I’ve taught him a thing or two as well. He raised me to be a man and in return he got a best friend. 

Happy Birthday, buddy. I love you.

-28 April 2014-

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