My father died in 1991. I was 47 years old, and I continue to feel him with me each and every day. It is difficult to lose someone we love. In her poem, “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop says, “So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost.”
It’s even harder for us baby boomers, who feel as if we are becoming the ones with the guiding light for younger generations. For me, the transition to being the family elder seems to have happened rather quickly. As a result, I view it as a good time to examine my parents’ legacies.
Looking back at my father’s life, I see the transformation of a man who survived the Holocaust and emigrated to the United States and how his life was forever changed. I note how, regardless of the trials and tribulations of war, he managed to always be a positive-thinking man who looked at the glass as half full.
He was always thankful for his life, especially because he lost most of his family in the Dachau camp. I am honored to carry his life force inside of me, along with his people-pleaser personality.
Though some might believe that we should honor loved ones every day, it’s nice to have a special day, like Father’s Day, put aside to celebrate and highlight the influence of fathers and fatherly role models in our lives.
I’ve always found that during special holiday celebrations it’s a good practice to turn to writing about those who we have lost. A few years ago, I wrote the following poem and dedicated it to my father. It’s a reflection of who he was and the parts of him which continue to live inside of me:
You had this radiant smile
and handshake to fracture a bone
a giving heart
void of bad intention,
even risking tossing the shirt
off your back to the beggar on the street.
As a child I sat on the borders of
Rockefeller Center as you taught
Paul Newman to skate every Sunday
morning in the place where they called
you ‘Mr. Mark’ because they couldn’t
pronounce your long European last name.
We’d return home for steak and
whipped potatoes and then
vanilla pudding, your favorite meal
before your bedtime snack of
pumpernickel bread with a smear
of cream cheese.
In the morning I eyed you sitting
in the corner diner
as your flattered waitresses
making them giggle with your charm,
as they poured you steamy coffee in
the same seat each day, the same
place I saw grandma for the very last time.
Now more than two decades since your passing,
I miss you more than ever and relish
each moment in which your
spirit encircles me. I still talk to you
each day — you — the only person who
loved me unconditionally.
I shall be forever warmed by you.
For many years after my father’s passing, I sent flowers to his gravesite, thanking him for being such an amazing father and powerful force in my life. As a writer, I also wrote and continue to write him letters or poems telling him how much I miss him and what everyone in our family is doing. I believe this to be a healing ritual, one that I also share with the participants in my writing workshops.
I believe that if you love someone who has passed away, it’s important to honor them in a way which would make them proud and/or happy. On days that remind you of them, it is a nice gesture to do things which they would like to do or see. My dad was very kind, passionate, and generous. He also loved a good home-cooked meal, so to honor him on Father’s Day or his birthday, I serve his favorite meal – like I mention in my poem: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and vanilla pudding.
Being a storyteller is one way to keep the family legacy alive, and that’s why writers have such poignant roles in society. The idea of writing a letter to a loved one shows gratitude and recognition and can be important both for the sender and the recipient.
Even if you are not a writer, consider ways you may honor your father or any other male role model in your life this month, whether or not they are still living. Most importantly, try to keep in touch with your inner voice and feelings. Sending blessings, and I hope you are enjoying your journey in this magical universe.
To read more of my inspirational essays, please visit my website.
Have you thought about your father’s legacy? If you are/were estranged from your father, has another male figure influenced your life positively? What will you always remember about this person? How will you honor them this month?