aired June 18, 2011 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube: Father’s Day
Shalom, Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon, with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of June 19, 2011.
Happy Father’s Day, goddammit! What a nice thing to be able to celebrate: a non-sectarian holiday that nevertheless follows the fifth commandment: honor thy father and thy mother.
It actually took awhile for the papas to catch up to the mamas on this. Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914, but it wasn’t until 1972 that Father’s Day became an official national holiday. Of course, since then, we’ve added an official Grandparents Day, and if Hallmark had its way, we’d have an Uncles Day, a Stepmother’s Day, a Caribbean Nanny’s Day.
Not that these are bad things; anyone responsible for raising a child deserves a day of pampering and obeisance. As the father of 21 and a half children – or is it 22 and a half? A couple of them are very quiet – but as a father, I know what it is like to endure the crying, and the screaming, and the begging, and the pouting, and the tantrums when my wife needs me to help with the kids. I know what it is like when your baby has 103 degrees fever, and you don’t know whether to rush to the emergency room or stay home and finish watching “Hawaii 5-0.” I know what it is like when you’re in a supermarket, and the kids are yelling and pulling things off the shelves and smashing the cart into the displays, and someone looks at you as if to say, “Is that your kid?” And you just want to say, “No, my real kids are at home. These are aliens who were sent from hell to destroy the earth. As long as I keep them busy in the King Soopers, the world is safe. So you should thank me and stop giving me the stink-eye, all right?”
I remember my father. He was a small man who kept getting smaller as the years went on. I remember he used to come home, stooped and exhausted, holding his abdomen and lower back after hours of lifting heavy bundles. Which was strange because he was an accountant. But in his life he was also a jeweler, a furrier, a candy store clerk, an insurance salesman, a math tutor, a night watchman – anything to put food on the table. And let me tell you, sometimes there wasn’t a table to put food on, so we had to put it on the floor. And one time, the floor fell in, so we had to put the food on our downstairs neighbors’ floor. I still don’t know why they wouldn’t let us use their table…
But what I remember most about my tateh are the quiet times, like when he took me fishing in the Hudson River. We didn’t have to say anything; we just sat side by side getting our tetanus shots.
I remember papa showing me how to daven and put on tfillin in the synagogue. I would get all tangled in the leather straps and the tallus, and I’d get frustrated and start cursing. And then he’d start cursing. And then the rabbi would come over and threaten to throw us out. Then we’d start cursing at him. You can’t buy moments of bonding like that.
I’ll also never forget one of the last things my father ever said to me. He said, “Son, no matter what your mother says, you really are my child. I love you, and I hope one day when you have children, they will give you the joy – and the trouble – that you have given me.” If he only knew.
But what can I say? Once you have children, you can’t imagine not having children. And since it’s illegal to kill them once they’re born, you have to do your best on their behalf. Hopefully, one day a year, they remember you with a tie, or a DVD, or a Sony Blu-Ray player (HINT HINT HINT if you’re listening, you little bastards!).
Whatever your relationship is with your father; if there’s issues, if there’s bad feelings – put them aside for a day if you can, and call him, send him a card, maybe buy him a hooker if he’s lonely – give thanks to the man who put you here, because he may not always be there.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches.
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