father's day

June 17, 2018

The only time you can get him to smile for photos is if you say "fart"!

The only time you can get him to smile for photos is if you say "fart"!

Sometimes—usually after they get into an argument—my mom tells me, "Sylvia, don't grow up to be like your father." This isn't to say that they have a poor relationship, because they don't really, but my father is a quiet person. Kind of awkward. Is pretty tactless. If I do him a favor, he gives me this look with his lips pursed—a borderline smile, probably; it's the best he can do—as though to express his gratitude, but says nothing. When we're on vacation & he asks for directions from a stranger, he walks away abruptly the moment he receives all the information he needs to know, and I'm left trailing behind him, thanking the stranger in his place (he's a good person, I swear! Just a little insensitive, I want to also say). There is no such thing as "hello," rarely a "goodbye," texts are only done out of necessity ("Home soon?" he types, curt like his person. He doesn't inquire more than he has to), and the one time I engaged in extensive conversation with my father is when I asked him a question about stocks (he's very well-versed in anything business-related. I suspect he might view social interaction as an opportunity to network), in an attempt to understand.  


What I wish to tell those who do not know my father well enough is that even though he fumbles with words, he compensates—overcompensates, I think—in action. No matter where we are, he wakes up far earlier than the rest of us to buy breakfast, groceries, Pilot gel pens when I run out of them. When I stay up too late in the night and have somewhere to go the next morning, he offers to drive—despite horrendous New York City traffic—so I have a few extra minutes to sleep in bed, and even more in the car. Text me if you need anything else, he says. And, on nights I return a little later, he always waits for me outside the train station to walk me home, even though we live a three-minute walk away and the streetlights illuminate the pavement. I collect these signs of love, and I think, how lucky I am to have a father that loves me so much, even if he doesn't know how to say it.


When he returns from work in the late evening, I welcome him back as he removes his shoes as a ritual; of course, there is no uttered response on his part. "Keep trying," my mom says. "I'm sure one day, he'll learn to answer, 'I'm home.'"