Today is my Dad’s birthday. He’s 70-something. I can never remember exactly. It’s not like it’s a big secret or that it’s not polite to ask… I could, it just doesn’t much matter. It’s the same with my mom. Her birthday is in February and she’s my dad’s age minus a few years. No, I don’t know how many – a few. Again, it’s no big secret, she wouldn’t have any problem telling me – again.
What’s important about November eighth is not how many times it has rolled around in his lifetime. What is important is how much he has accomplished in that time. If memory serves, he was born in 1933 – I could be wrong but at least it’s close. That would put him smack-dab in the middle of the Great Depression. Although they were hard times for many, it was doubly hard for my paternal grandparents and their only child.
My father is a first generation American. Both of his parents came to this country from Russia and/or the Ukraine in the early 1900s. They met and married in New York City and worked very hard. When they arrived, they didn’t know the language or the culture; all they had to build upon was an ability and willingness to work and work hard. They never made a lot of money, but they earned every penny. They were among the most honorable people I’ll ever know.
It is apparent that the work ethic my grandparents relied upon to survive was transmitted to my father. As I said, they didn’t have much, but they made do. My dad excelled in school and graduated high school at 16. A remarkable achievement in its own right but even more so when you take into account a complete transplant from New York to Miami midway through his high school years. He would be the first to tell you, however, that he wasn’t any smarter; he just worked twice as hard.
As hard as my grandparents worked, there was not much chance of them seeing my dad through college. He found a way to do it himself. He viewed education as the antidote to fiscal uncertainty. Through a combination of means (such as the GI Bill and… that’s right, work), he managed to graduate from UCLA with a chemistry degree before putting himself through Stanford for his PhD. (For those that do not know – a PhD is a BIG deal… a PhD from Stanford is a REALLY BIG deal). Not bad for a poor depression era kid.
I could go on and on about what he has done since then. He and my mom have been married for almost 45 years, he has traveled all over the world, he has been a successful business owner, an employer and… for almost 44 years he has been a father. My father.
And what was that like?
Well, if all’s well that ends well, then all’s well. Ok, the truth – Mostly pretty good. Yes there have been more than a few rough patches, but the good times have more than made up for them. There is one glaring incident when my dad and mom literally put their lives on hold for several months to help me. In my book, that is the kind of sacrifice that defines parenthood and perhaps even more so, fatherhood.
Happy Birthday Pops!