Category Archives: Father’s Day

Rain Cooled Air

Here comes Father’s Day, or, as my dad liked to call it: Jack Ass Day. As you might surmise, he wasn’t very sentimental about it, and he thought it a rather silly day. Perhaps this was because Father’s Day only came into its own during my father’s lifetime: the holiday itself has its roots in Mother’s Day traditions. Anna Jarvis had successfully established Mother’s Day in the first decade of the 1900s, although she came to hate the eventual commercialization of the day she created. It was 1910 when Sonora Smart Dodd, who, after hearing a sermon about Anna Jarvis and her mission to establish a day honoring mothers, sought to do the same for fathers. The first Father’s Day celebration took place in Spokane, Washington that June, on the third Sunday, just as we celebrate it now.

Where Jarvis chose to battle the forces of commercialization for the holiday she championed, Dodd did not, and instead welcomed the commercialization of Father’s Day as a way to help establish the holiday, which was not gaining much traction on its own. The backing of trade groups worked, too, but it took time. The presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day did not occur until Lyndon Johnson did it the honor in 1966, and it was Richard Nixon who made Father’s Day a permanent national holiday in 1972.

By Father’s Day 1972 I was already 7 years old and I’m sure by then it was becoming increasingly apparent that I had not inherited my dad’s natural prowess with hand tools and machinery. It was last year’s chapter for Father’s Day where I told you about my dad’s patience (or lack of it) while we attempted to do things together like change the oil on my truck (Dad: “Turn it to the left!” Me: “Which left?” Dad: “LEFT!” Me: “But I’m upside down and on my back. Is it the same left for you as it is for me?” Dad: “Darrrh!”)

But there was one task we had down pat together, over the years: Mowing the lawn.  Dad loved his manicured lawn, and these are some of my favorite memories of him: mowing, clipping, sweeping. He had a specific manner of sweeping: first with a corn broom along the freshly cut edges of the grass along the sidewalk, and then with a push broom down the center. He’d gather up all the clippings in a bushel basket, the kind you find apples in at the farmstand, with the wide strips of wood painted red and green. When I was a kid, I’d be the one with the dustpan, collecting all the grass clippings that Dad swept into the pan.

Over the years I got just slightly better with tools and machinery; good enough that I could handle some of the lawn responsibilities. But Dad kept cutting the lawn, on a rider mower eventually, and even just a few months ago he was still mowing his own lawn, while I took care of the edger and the weedwacker and still, the broom. He had a blower but it didn’t always work and me, I’m more of a broom guy, anyway.

Come June, when summer here in Florida gains its foothold, there are two things you can typically count on: the Royal Poinciana trees blooming red and orange, and the rainy season beginning in earnest. All summer long, between the constant heat and the daily thunderstorms, the grass would grow and grow and grow. We would have to mow the lawn weekly, Dad and I, usually on Saturdays. He would wait impatiently for me to wake up, and then we’d get out there. Very often, the thunderstorms would build to the west as we worked. We would hurry to finish, get all the machinery tucked away as the wind picked up, and then, task completed, we would sit in the garage, garage door open, as the thunder pealed and the lightning crackled and the rain began to fall. It usually came in hard and sometimes lasted just a bit and other days kept on for the rest of the afternoon. But we would sit there, Dad and I, while the wind blew around us rain cooled air. It was the unspoken satisfaction of a job well done.

I had forgotten all about that until yesterday, when my nephew John and I met up at the house to cut the lawn. It was long, three weeks worth of summer growth. John rode the mower, while I did the rest. I used the blower instead of the broom; the rain was fast approaching. But we finished, and though we didn’t sit, we stood there in the garage, leaning on the car, garage door open, wind blowing. Instead of Dad and me it was me and John. It took me right back to those rain cooled afternoons with Dad, and it was nice, kind of like another visit from Dad. He didn’t care much for Father’s Day, my dad… but I know he loved those afternoons. And to have one again yesterday, well… that was just what my nephew and I needed. Happy Father’s Day then to all our dads: those given, those chosen, those here in front of us, and those present in rain cooled air or whatever form they’ve chosen to come and bestow their love upon us.

 

Image: Early 1970s, I’d guess, based on the cars and the hair. There’s Dad with his corn broom, but with a galvanized trash bin instead of the bushel basket. That’s at our home on Victor Street in Valley Stream, New York.

 

My Father’s Patience

uncle john playing pool

I think my dad would not put up a fight if I told you he is not the most patient man in the world. And then who does he get for a kid but me, a kid who at times required an extra measure of patience. And still does. Dad will watch me fumble with screwdrivers and wrenches, or he will stand above me at the open hood of the truck while I am beneath it, on my back, reciting aloud “righty tighty, lefty loosey” (and which way exactly is lefty when you are on your back beneath the truck, anyway?) praying to God, hoping to God that I am not about to make the oil filter even tighter than it was the last time I turned it the wrong way. He shakes his head and no doubt thinks, “Where did this kid come from?”

And it has always been thus. One of my earliest memories of Dad/Son quality time is of Dad setting up my electric Aurora race car set. We got the tracks laid out, the hairpin curve, the traffic light, the whole works, and then he said, “Okay, give me some juice.” I went to the kitchen, poured a glass of orange juice, and brought it to him. There was some head-shaking that day, too.

We all have our strengths. Dad’s strength––his superpower––is knowing all this stuff, knowing how tools work, knowing instinctively which way to turn the oil filter for an oil change. And they are our superheroes, from the start, our dads. Today, Father’s Day, we honor them all: the dads we were given, the dads who chose us, the dads we have chosen ourselves, for they come in many varied types. Sometimes they are our grandfathers, or our uncles, or brothers or old friends who just seem like dads to us. The definition is loose, but the shoes to fill are large.

These days, Dad says “thank you” a lot to me, and to Seth, the other son I gave him. I always say “thank you” in return. He stood there at our wedding, and I imagine that is not at all something he would have pictured himself doing if you had asked him years ago. But he did stand there for us, and I know he was proud of us, and completely welcoming and loving. At least Seth knows how to handle a socket wrench. Perhaps Dad figures I’ll be all right, after all. He did a good job. And so to my father, to Seth’s father, to all our fathers: Happy Father’s Day.

Image: My cousin Maria found this photo taken in the basement (“a bass’u cell,” in my grandparents’ dialect) of our old family home in Valley Stream, New York. That’s my dad on the right in the striped shirt; to his left is Doc, then Grandpa, and at the far left is Frank. Great guys every one, all worthy of happy Father’s Day wishes. There is Grandpa’s cuckoo clock; he pulled the weights up each morning. This was the same room as the race-car-juice incident.

 

Father Sun

Summer

Events today both celestial and closer to home: It is Father’s Day and it is solstice day. Here on the surface of the planet we honor our fathers, those we were given and those that we chose or who chose us. I know of two friends who are probably having the most amazing Father’s Day right now: they adopted a family of three brothers and sisters just last week. And so we salute all the fathers on this day… as well as all the men out there who have been like fathers to others. You know who you are. Happy Father’s Day.

And as we celebrate and honor our fathers, grand workings are taking place above our heads in the celestial realm. Here in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:39 PM Eastern Daylight Time today, the 21st of June, comes summer by the almanac. It is the summer solstice, marking the furthest north the sun will appear in the sky before the Earth begins once again to shift in the opposite direction. The sun will appear to stand still there at its northern zenith, and that’s the origin of the word solstice, from the Latin sol stetit, “sun stands still.” The days have been lengthening since the winter solstice in December, but now once again daylight begins to wane. Tomorrow there will be a few seconds less sunlight than today, and the next day a few seconds less, and so it continues until the winter solstice comes once more next December. Each day slightly different than the one before and the one to follow: the constant rearrange.

It is the start of summer by the almanac, but by traditional reckoning of time, summer began at the start of May with the arrival of May Day. This older approach to time places the solstices and the equinoxes at the middle of each season, which, when you think about it, is a considerably more logical approach. Looking at things as our ancestors did, it begins to seem odd to mark the start of summer, for instance, with the last of the lengthening days, and the start of winter with the last of the lengthening nights. These are, more naturally, midpoints of the seasons.

And so our ancestors thought of this time as Midsummer, with Midwinter at the winter solstice. Pagan festivals grew up around these celestial events and eventually, with the spread of Christianity, so did Church festivals. To Midwinter the Church attached the birth of Christ; to Midsummer, the birth of John the Baptist. And while we don’t celebrate these holidays precisely on the solstice, they are both solidly connected to the celestial events and the times of sol stetit with both Christmas and St. John’s Day just a few days after their respective solstice, the sun appearing to stand still at both.

Across cultures, these transitional times were long considered magical. Witches and fairies and sprites were more active, animals gained powers of speech. Our friend William Shakespeare was well attuned to this lore: his comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I have long loved, is set on St. John’s Eve. In the play, the realm of the fairies and the realm of the mortals blend as one, at least for a night or two. This is the magic that can be conjured at such times, as the balance of light and dark on our planet begins to shift again. Summer is here, but it’s been here a while already. Magic is here, too, revealed to us if we are open. These are interesting days. Read more here at the blog come St. John’s Eve on the 23rd.

Image: Summer by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Oil on canvas, 1573, [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: