I have read a lot of reflections written by sons and daughters about their favorite memories and words of advice from their fathers. From Luke Russert recounting the three lessons of life from his dad, the late Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert, to Robert McCartney in the Washington Post immortalizing his father’s legacy, it seems everywhere I looked this week I found stories of fathers. With such overwhelming regret within me for having to spend my first Father’s Day away from my dad, I thought a great gift to him would be my own written account of what he means to me.
Despite the fact that I had planned on writing this all week, I have had the hardest time committing myself to doing it. Much of my difficulty in doing so was based in my struggle to summarize in less than a thousand words all the ways in which my dad has changed my life. With so many stories to share and words of wisdom, how could I possibly pick one or two for this blog post? All this week I have debated to myself what to write, but it was not until I was spending time in one of my favorite places, the kitchen of course, that I found my inspiration.
It was Tuesday evening and as I prepared dinner for myself, I glanced over at a paper bag with a post-it stuck to its front. “Mangoes,” I had written so to remind myself that they needed to be cut up for my lunch. I love chopping onions and dicing up chicken, but cutting up mangoes is one of the few tasks I do not enjoy. Part of this enmity emanates from my dad. Having done so little of the cutting myself, I have yet to master how to cut a mango to preserve all its flavor. While other dads cut up apples and carrots for their daughters’ lunches, my dad spent the time slicing and dicing the exotic fruit so I could enjoy it at midday. It was such a simple, and perhaps mundane task for him, but the sight and smell of the mango in my lunch bag always seemed to brighten my day.
Now living in D.C. for the summer with a kitchen of my own, the task of mango cutting has fallen on myself. It was not until this week when I had to tackle the fruit solo that I realized just how much I rely on my father. Besides making my lunch, sorting, doing, and folding my laundry, and acting as my chauffeur, my dad has been the ultimate man in my life. His presence has been such a powerful influence on me and my beliefs that is difficult to imagine what type of person I would be had he not been around looking over my shoulder and guiding my steps.
I owe a great deal of character and personality to my father. It is from him that I get my love of American history, my passion for politics and contemporary affairs. Watching him read the newspaper every Sunday morning quenched my thirst for the daily news, and thus spurred my interest in journalism and writing. His commitment to the Red Sox and the Patriots has given rise to another generation devoted to New England sports teams, and of course, it is his Italian heritage that has vitalized my love of all things related to the boot-shaped nation.
As I write this and think about all the wonderful aspects of my father, tears come to my eyes. Through all the Tuesday night practices and Saturday games, he has been my coach and my cheerleader. I have watched him cry in celebration, such as during the Red Sox’s World Series victory in 2004, and in mourning, including the loss of too many loved ones. He has listened to me vent about high school drama, and he has encouraged me to speak when I was all too afraid to admit to imperfection. He has sampled multiple batches of egg biscuits only to tell me there was too much vanilla, too much flour, too few eggs, or not enough sprinkles. He has opened up his heart and admitted his faults and his fears. He is my shoulder, my rock, my mountain, my hero, mio padre.
Having left home and living on my own, the lessons and spirit of my father carry me through each day. Though I am no longer in his company, every night before I go to sleep I imagine that my dad comes into my room and taps me on the head. As I cringe from the small dose of pain and prepare to express my dismay, I look up to see that eternal sign of optimism and encouragement, his smile. For this, the mango cutting, and so much more, dad, I want to say thank you, and I love you.