A Tribute to Fathers

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Every Father’s Day eve I’m confronted with that formidable question: what do I get my dear, seemingly unsentimental, utterly unmaterialistic and stoic father as a gift?

A tie. But when was the last time he needed to dress up?

Socks to replace his 25 torn and ragged pairs?

Or how about a new vacuum cleaner? Those are too pricey. Something under twenty dollars please.

How can I possibly say “Thanks Dad, I love you, you’re the best!” in such a way to equal the lifetime of hard work, attention and affection my dad has dedicated to make me the best I can be. Because, in the end, that’s what dads do. They push us and push us until we’re made stronger. They challenge us, and although they say “that’s not good enough,” what they mean is “you’re better than that,” because they wholeheartedly believe in our potential.

Who tosses us high into the air, letting us fly when we can’t even walk yet? Only Dad, of course. Who takes us camping in the rain with nothing but summer sleeping bags and a can of beans? Remember that, Dad? So my little brother, my dog and I suffered that night, but it taught us something: always go prepared.

Oh, the adventures through the construction sites in blossoming downtown San Jose learning how a city is built and expanded. Ah! Or weekend visits to the Children’s Discovery Museum. How poignant … dads help us discover. Discover the skies, the earth, the world and ourselves. Dads encourage us to learn and give us the resources necessary to self-actualize.

There Dad was, coaching and motivating me during basketball practice, swimming practice and softball practice. “Dad, I need money for music lessons, for dance lessons, for summer camp, for pointe shoes…” And Dad would wake up at six, five, and three in the morning laboring all day so he could come home and make all that happen. And how is it that dads know everything about everything? So much so that I wonder if they are only bluffing.

Fathers can come across as tough, relentless or insensitive. Never expect them to say what you want to hear. We can always run faster, jump higher, write better, and be better. But that’s because dads have the daunting task of motivating their children to get off the couch and make something of themselves.

And it works.

I’d still be on the couch devouring Oreo cookies if it weren’t for my father. But instead, I’m “self-critical, corrigible and fallibilistic,” just as my dear old dad repeated to me every day for twenty years.  I like athletics, philosophy, ancient Greek literature, Bach, Beethoven, Robert Plant, George Winston, Gershwin. I like voicing my ideas loudly. And I have loftier interests, like changing the world. Thanks, Dad.

Now I am grown up and I see clearer than ever how Dad made me better. Dad helped give me life and made me grow. But how do I reciprocate such love? A tie certainly seems to be lacking in something … even socks don’t seem sufficient: “Thanks, Dad, for expanding my horizons, obliterating my limits, and instilling in me fundamental values to make me a better person. Thanks for working like a dog all those years … here’s some socks.”

So what do I get him? Sometimes the best gift is sincerity. Reviving all those old affections and forgotten memories can be the sweetest and most meaningful gift for a father. Because what’s stuff to a father? Sincere recognition and gratitude for all his devotion to me and faith in me, a tribute to my Dad seems to me to be the best Father’s Day present.

Alyxandra Stackfleth
About Alyxandra Stackfleth

Writer Alyxandra Stackfleth lives in Siskiyou County and enjoys traditional jazz, Russian literature, and foreign languages.

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