On Fathers’ Day, we remember and honor the dads, grandfathers, uncles, and all the men, living and deceased, who tirelessly and selflessly give/gave of themselves for their families with unconditional love. And if a father chooses to imitate the virtues and example of Saint Joseph, the model of fathers, he will certainly make a blessed difference in the lives of his wife and children that will remain with them their entire lives. What follows is the story of just such a father….

 October will mark the passage of 19 years since God called my dad home to Himself. Nineteen years – yet it still seems like only yesterday…and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, lovingly remember him and fervently thank God that He chose this particular man to be my father, my dad.

 My mother often liked to remark that before I was born, my dad’s greatest desire was that his first child be a girl. In fact, he was so confident that this would be, he was really only interested in picking feminine potential names. This being the days long before the advent of sonograms to give a “heads-up” into the sex of an expected baby, my parents had to be content in their anticipation, but in the end, dad got his wish for a daughter.

 There are so many wonderful memories of my dad spanning all the years from my childhood to adulthood safely tucked away in my heart. In free, quiet moments, I like to bring them out to revisit them like the cherished friends they are…teaching me to learn to ride a two-wheel bike sans training wheels as he gamely jogged behind me holding onto the bike as I struggled for balance; the days in the backyard after dinner when he taught me how to kick a ball (having been a semi-professional soccer player before coming to this country dad proved to be a great tutor and was a handy skill to have on the school playground during spirited games of kick ball); playful water fights while washing the car on warm afternoons; sitting quietly in the backyard late into the night on summer weekends admiring the brilliance of the night sky; the secret to precision parallel parking; summer evenings at the Hollywood Bowl enjoying a picnic dinner and wonderful classical music; the annual trek to the L.A. Auto Show to admire the latest in automotive trends and design….and so many more. Yet, if I had to pick one favorite memory, it would have to be when dad decided it was time to teach me to dance.

Dad and mom both were great lovers of classical music and they readily passed this interest on to me. My earliest memories always include sounds of music wafting through the house. Dad also loved to dance and needless to say, he enthusiastically looked forward to sharing this interest with me. Dad was a tall man and from a very early age, it became obvious that I inherited the “tall gene” from his side of the family. He wouldn’t have to wait too long for me to “catch up” as far as height was concerned. By the time I was 12, the disparity in height became less of an issue and one Saturday morning after breakfast, he walked into the living room to the phonograph and started pulling out records as he called to me to join him. It was time to get down to the business of teaching his girl to dance!

 Admittedly, I was a tad skeptical as with raised eyebrows, I watched him select just the right records. As I debated with myself how to diplomatically extricate myself from this lesson, my mom sidled up to me and quietly said: “He’s looked forward to this since the day you were born. Don’t spoil his fun as it won’t do you any harm to play along for an hour.”

After a moment’s thought, I decided that yes, mom was right. Dad does so much for me without complaint, dancing with him for an hour is hardly asking much. After moving some furniture out of the way, we had our makeshift dance floor in the middle of the living room. Five minutes into the lesson I was hooked. I guess I inherited the “dance gene” from dad, too! We danced our way through the foxtrot, the slow waltz, the tango, the Viennese waltz, the rumba and many more. While we started out in the living room, the carpeted floor was not particularly conducive to smooth gliding. Eventually, we moved the lessons to the garage, its cement surface just perfect for smooth gliding. What started out as a one-time lesson, turned into a weekly activity reserved for every Saturday morning for years thereafter. What fun we had! Even as I moved into my teens and early twenties, it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to my Saturday morning dances with dad. They will remain among my most treasured memories of him for the rest of my life.

With all the wonderful experiences I was blessed to share with my dad, the most important lesson I learned was how to live life with integrity and fortitude and by keeping God as the focal point of the family. I was privileged to see this through the example of how he lived his ordinary, day-to-day life. How important is the role of a father…a dad!

It was through my dad’s example that I learned how a man should treat his wife and his daughter and how a wife and daughter should expect to be treated by a husband and father. It was through my dad’s example that I learned generosity of spirit, the willingness to lend a helping hand regardless of whether it was a neighbor dealing with a pesky plumbing problem or collecting an injured, abandoned dog at the side of the road and seeing to its needs. Most importantly, it was through my dad’s example that I learned how to place all faith and trust in God even during the darkest of life’s moments, be it escaping terrible religious persecution in his native land or through the years of the pain and suffering of a final illness.

How much richer is my life for having been graced with the presence of the man who was my dad! This Fathers’ Day, I will remember him and gratefully thank God for the precious gift that was his life. May God grant you eternal rest, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

This Fathers’ Day, remember to tell your dad how much he means to you and how much you appreciate all he has done for you….that will mean more to him than the grandest gift money could buy. Then ask Saint Joseph for his intercession on behalf of all dads that his holy example will continue to be an inspiration to all fathers.