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Today is my father’s 80th birthday and I just can’t believe it. Where did the time go?

Being single again after almost a decade, I have found myself doing a lot of reflecting on the men in my life.

As I take time today to celebrate this most special man, I realize that he not just an incredible father, but he is, in large part, the reason that I love, appreciate and embrace men in my life.

Who he is has informed who I am…in the best possible way.

He is open yet traditional. My parents have a somewhat “traditional” marriage, with somewhat “traditional” roles. And yet, he has always been supportive and encouraging of my mother’s significant career and many interests. As I reflect back, it is their open and “modern”, yet “traditional” relationship that modeled what a strong masculine and strong feminine looks like.  As with all little girls, he showed me what it could, should and would mean to love and be loved by a man.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.

He is strong and soft. My father somehow found a perfect balance between being strong and soft. He is, in so many ways, a no-nonsense kind of guy, and in so many other ways, he is a nurturer and caretaker. I have always been able to talk with him about anything (and I mean anything) and I could always rely on his clear convictions and fortitude. And yet, at the same time, he has done the hard inner work of personal growth and understands what a life journey is all about. I have never felt misunderstood by him, and in fact, he always sought to learn more about me.  And no matter where my path has led, his devotion has remained complete.

He is funny. He is really, really funny. Most of the time he knows it and it is intentional, and other times he has no idea how funny he really is. When we are together, either alone the two of us, or as a family, laughter is never far behind. Not just the light easy laughter, but the lose your breath, stomach hurting kind.

He is honest and honorable. There is no one more honest or more honorable than my father. His life and all of his relationships are built on honesty and honor. My father has never spoken an unkind word about anyone and tackles any and all challenges or conflict that arise in a kind, clear and compassionate manner. I have worked hard to follow in his footsteps, and it hasn’t been easy.  But when things go south in my life, it is my father that is there with solid, reliable and wise guidance and advice.

He has the most incredible work ethic. My dad worked hard for everything he has ever had. Born to a modest family and raised in the Bronx, my father decided that he would become a professional, in fact, a dentist. He put himself through school and worked long hours in the difficult career of endodontics (no comments please, I have heard them all!!); he showed my brother and I that there was honor, dignity and confidence that is born when hard work and discipline is involved. He was a master craftsman in his career and his reputation reflected it.

He is adventurous. He and my mother live a life in which they will do, try, dabble in and experience almost anything, at least once. They are curious and consistently seek adventure and expansion. I find this to be a quality that is conspicuously missing in people and relationships today and I am deeply appreciative that I have been witness to and able to embrace this quality.

He adores his wife (my mother). I have written about this before, but my father adores my mother as much as she adores him. They have been the most beautiful example of what long term, sustainable love is. It is not perfect and is a relationship unique to the two of them; but it is also a rare and magical gift that they bestow upon each other every day. My father is a man who never sought out new and different when the going got tough, he grounded himself and his life in what mattered most and worked diligently to keep his relationship strong and exciting.

His love is infinite. I have felt my father’s love for me every minute of every day since before I was born. His heart beats with mine, he feels my pain, and my worries become his. I am never quite sure how to receive his love or how to express the depth of mine for him, but I know that I will live the rest of my life loving him in the same way he loves me.

He is generous and gracious. My father’s generosity runs deep. He has never needed to accumulate as a means of significance, importance or worth. Instead, he seeks opportunities to give and to support not only those he loves, but the movements that are important to him. My life has been a series of transitions and transformations, and still continues to be…and what fills my ears and soul are his reliably soothing words, “what do you need honey?” His generosity is often overwhelming for me, but whether I need it or not, I know it is there; and that is why I have the ability to move forward knowing that I will always be okay.

He is handsome. And getting more handsome every day. Nuff said.

It is no wonder that my bar is high, I have had my father to set it that way. On his 80th birthday, let this be the very smallest way that I can honor him as a gift to the world and to me.

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