Fathers Day is tough. I must admit this. I mean, Mother’s Day gets a ton of attention with flowers and brunches and it always seemed, to me, that dads get a sort of, “oh yes, here is a tie and a day for you, thanks”. I usually had to deal with this day long distance. My parents divorced when I was 5 years of age, with my dad settling in a city about a 1/1/2 hour drive away. So, from the time I was little, I was riding the PA Railroad (remember that?) every other weekend until I was old enough to drive. My dad ran a business, so our weekends were often punctuated with me going along with him on calls or waiting for him to return. Even after he re-married, time was always at a premium. Still, despite this, I regard those times, and many experiences we shared, as precious. Even with not living with him for most of my life, it is amazing to see, as I get older, how much of him is within me. That is one of those realities of our own aging that remain fascinating.
This father-son stuff is powerful. Just look at the Bible and the father-son issues there, from Adam, Eve and Cain and Abel, to Abraham and the rest of our “founding fathers” and their sons. There is no shortage of motifs that suggest the complexity of this bond; from classic mythology, to Vader and Luke. Just revisit Arthur Miller’s classic “Death of a Salesman”! Or, if you are so inclined, consider the projection of the mythical powerful father that, according to some, emerges in civilization as God. Yes, this motif is quite powerful.
For some reason, this Fathers Day has gotten me thinking more about time. Yes, it is a result of my own aging, seeing my children as independent adults, and the loss of more friends. But, to be truthful, and I know others who are experiencing this, I am entering the age neighborhood of when my dad died. Now that is a real wake up call. That age is no longer far away, but, on the horizon and the horizon is getting closer. He died way too young, in 1990, and, instead of a movie of memories, I have snapshots. Maybe that is a result of the circumstances of our life, but I keep looking at some of those snapshots in my mind. It seems so long ago and yes, there is a lot of “what if” that gets asked.
We will get together with family on Fathers Day and it will be crazy, but nice. I will probably spend most of my time hanging with the grandchildren. I cannot help but wonder what memories they will carry of me. I wonder too what my own children will remember. Memory is a funny thing. Time reshapes it, molds it to fit, in many ways, a desired picture. These relationships are powerful and, as any of us now understand, they become more powerful and meaningful as we get older.
Here’s to the dads. Thanks to mine, Martin Address, of blessed memory…missing him and the times we never had.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.