Father's Day is just a few days away, so I thought I'd take this time to write a letter to my father. I think we take too many things for granted in life, and often leave important things unsaid. As a 53-year-old single father of soon-to-be-5-year-old twin girls, I see my father with very different eyes. I am grateful that he is still alive and very much a part of my, Emilia and Francesca's life.
From early on, my father taught me by example the importance of taking care of you. He worked incredibly hard and long hours to provide for our family (mom and three sisters), but he always found time to work out in the basement of our house. Working out was his elixir, his calm at the end of a long and stressful day (his version "sound mind sound body"). Dad's basement gym had a certain mystique (and unique smell). It was an unfinished basement measuring no more than 150 square feet, but it was packed with a few thousand pounds of free weights, a bench that was "born and used" before I was born and something fitness related occupying every square inch of floor space. As dad worked crazy long hours, quality time with him was scarce, so our workout time together was very special. Looking back, he had invited me in to his Zen place -- he was my sensei and I was his pupil. He was eager to share his breadth of knowledge and anecdotal stories. I'm sure, as any kid, I didn't always want to hang out with my father, opting for playing with my friends instead. He never pushed the issue, allowing me to organically find my way downstairs. The door was always open for me. It was a special time for my dad and I. The lessons learned in that sweaty, smelly, low ceiling gym 40 years ago stay with me today and have been invaluable. I take them with me wherever I go. Like my father, my workouts -- connecting mind, body and spirit -- calm, center and empower me, but most importantly, help me be a better parent.
It is only now as a father that I understand the importance of spending quality time with your children. My greatest challenge as a single father is carving out enough quality time for both Emilia and Francesca. Just today, the girls were celebrating their end of year school party. I obviously wanted to be with each of them the entire time. Navigating this proved difficult, as they are in separate classes. This meant spending 5-10 minutes in each room and running to the other one's room. Emilia seemed to go with the flow, but Francesca had a really difficult time with my leaving to see her sister. I took her sadness to heart -- it wrecked my day! When I was reading them their bedtime story, I shared my sadness and frustration with Francesca. I explained that I'm not always going to be the perfect father, but I will always try my very best (as my dad did and continues to do) to be there for her and Emilia. She said, "OK, daddy -- I'm going to go to sleep now." Emilia nodded off shortly after.
Although I didn't always understand how or if my dad loved me, I realize now that his love and devotion for me, my sisters and mom has and always will run very deep I carry that love and his lessons of fitness with me every day.
Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing this Sunday, June 15th, take time to think about, appreciate and love your dad for who he is and how much he loves you. I know I will!
Happy Father's Day to all the fathers and grandfathers out there!