10: It Was My Dad

10: It Was My Dad

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

It Was My Dad

Silence is the mother of truth.

~Benjamin Disraeli

Back when I competed in middle school debate, my dad — a lifelong teacher — would wake up early to rouse me on Saturday tournament mornings. With night still engulfing the morning sky, he’d help me into my suit and suggest tactics as we drove to the waiting school bus. If there was time, we’d get a box of doughnuts for the team.

Roughly twelve hours later, the bus would pull back into the dark school parking lot as if the day had never touched it. I’d see my dad’s car, its dome light illuminated so he could grade papers while he waited. He got a lot of work done on those nights.

“So . . . what’s new?” he’d ask sarcastically while I climbed inside, as if the plastic-and-marble trophies entering with me didn’t already answer the question. As I shared the day’s details, he’d consume each word thoughtfully.

“So what’s new?” is the closest my father ever comes to saying “I love you,” as if the word “love” might burn his lips on the way out.

But looking back, I realize my father expresses love, as dads are so prone to do, in deeds more than declarations. My father’s love is cloaked in attention, sacrifice, and selfless generosity. Love is the quiet battery that powers those human qualities.

It was my dad who told me not to worry about the cost of college — that he and my mom would somehow “make it work.” It was my dad who drove to where I worked to hand-deliver my SAT scores, hot off the mailman’s truck.

It was my dad who called with weekly encouragement when I was unemployed in Los Angeles and sleeping in a friend’s living room. It was my dad who supported me as I started law school, and just as much when I quit six months later. And it was my dad who visited me at the mall where I competed with a teenager to be the assistant manager of a tiny video store.

It was my dad who opened his home and every possession to me when I moved into my parents’ condominium following my divorce. He treated it like a routine event, even though it was the first divorce in the history of our family.

I remember how my dad insisted I try on his work shirts and pants, as if sensing the holes the separation had left in me, and desperately trying to fill them in with pieces of himself.

It was my dad who steadfastly held the ladder as I climbed back up to resume my life.

“Love” or no “love,” he comes in loud and clear.

Sometimes on Friday nights, while I wait in my ex-wife’s driveway for the children to emerge, I play with the dome light and wonder about the kind of father I am.

The kids knock the thought out of my head as they enthusiastically pile in.

“So . . . what’s new?” I ask, instinctively.

They smile broadly, and start telling their tales.

~Joel Schwartzberg

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