June 15, 2008, - 11:23 am
By Debbie Schlussel
On this first Father’s Day without my late father, it is bittersweet. Bitter–because my father is no longer here and because there is so much I want to ask and tell him, but cannot. Sweet–because I know I was so lucky to have such a strong, moral, responsible, caring, and loving father in my life (who was so good to me), when–today–so many American kids do not.
I miss my father, H.L. Schlussel, MD (of Blessed Memory), more than anything. The sadness and pain of not having my father here is not any less than it was when he died, last September. In fact, it is far deeper, because reality has set in. But it was very real, last year on Father’s Day, picking out the card I would give my father, knowing it would probably be the last. I cried at the store.
Dad was a great father, who sacrificed financial lucre in exchange for spending time with us kids, caring for us, and taking us places–from his delicious omelettes and French toast, to whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, to our appreciation for Copper River Salmon, we knew our father loved us. And he taught us to be kind and charitable to others, especially those less fortunate. Above is a photo of my dad receiving an award from the Lions club, for giving free eyecare to the poor and the blind. My father was a very special person.
To those of you who are lucky enough to still have your father on this earth, I hope you will give him a hug and that he will hug you back. And I hope you appreciate what you have, before it is too late. In many ways, I feel that I did not appreciate my father enough, as I cleaned out his office and went through the thousands of memories–photos, notes, letters, etc. My father was at many times both mother and father to us. He sacrificed his personal happiness for our well-being.
Fathers are so important in our lives, but they do not get the respect they deserve. In our “Sex and the City” culture with a growing matriarchal hegemony, fathers are mostly ridiculed on TV and in the movies–if they are even present at all. As I noted last year, there have been a few recent movies coming out of Hollywood bucking that trend–like “3:10 to Yuma,” “In the Valley of Elah” (whose anti-War message I did not appreciate, but whose loving father I did), and “Resurrecting the Champ.” But that was last fall. And the brief trend hasn’t continued in any notable way.
Good fathers teach their sons how to act like men, and their daughters how to be treated by men. Sadly, the American father has atrophied as a reality in most young Americans’ lives, to the detriment not only of the kids who are lacking in a strong father, but to the detriment of our entire country. We have long known that kids without a father will be more likely to get involved in crime, do poorly in school, and do drugs–to name just a few of the societal maladies that the “Murphy Brown” lifestyle brought America. Single mother households don’t cut it.
So, if you still have your father in your life, tell him how much you love him and appreciate his presence and influence in your life. Make sure he knows that he made a difference and for the better. If you are a father, kudos to you for doing the often thankless hard work some Americans won’t do. You have made a difference in someone’s life and made America better for the effort.
And read this touching piece by Wall Street Journal Senior Editor Kevin Helliker on his father Gerald Robert Helliker, an old-fashioned father who taught his sons to be men. He notes:
A coalition of scholars and psychoanalysts are publishing a book this fall called “The Dead Father: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry,” based in part on the premise that society has suffered as dads have become more maternal and less authoritarian.
“The whole culture needs the father back,” says Lila Kalinich, a Columbia University psychiatrist who served as senior editor for the book. “Fathers substantiate law and order. Fathers can create a sense of womanliness in daughters and bring the male children into manhood.”
Another important read: Juan Williams’ “The Tragedy of America’s Disappearing Fathers.”
While my father is no longer physically present on this earth, I know he is looking down from above, and he is always on my mind. I hope he is reading this. Dad, I love you. And I miss you. Happy Father’s Day to you.
(Read my eulogy to my great father.)
Also read Pam Geller’s beautiful tribute to her hard-working father.