The Worth of Your Father

6-Year Old Daughter paid a visit to the city last week. She is obsessed with all things Chinese (and this was before the Olympics!) so she and Mrs. Wife had lunch in Chinatown. She brought home a string of small illuminated paper lanterns which I had been promising all week to hang in her bedroom. Sunday morning came rolling around and I still hadn’t gotten around to it, so instead of sitting on my patio with the Sunday New York Times, a cup of coffee and two Hostess Ho-Ho’s (which is what I really wanted to do) I got out my shitty little tool kit and hung her lanterns.

I finished and took a step back to admire my handiwork. It looked pretty good! I started to imagine the look on her face when she crossed the threshold into her bedroom to see it for the first time. I knew how happy it was going to make her and I got a bit choked up. Then I got that familiar reminder that my father never did anything of this ilk for me or my siblings. That guy lived inside of his own head and to this day I’m not entirely convinced he was aware of my existence.

This is not an exercise in self-pity and I’m certainly not looking for any sympathy. We all hang on a cross for something. It’s merely a cautionary tale. If you’re reading this and have a kid or two, for Christ’s sake, pay them some attention. And don’t make them feel guilty about it, either.

Boy, you’re going to carry that weight
A long time.

Fun fact: When I got married, I gave up my last name and took Mrs. Wife’s. There was a span of 22 years that I didn’t see or hear from my father so I felt a bit detached from the name, to say the least. Also, the name was a terrible albatross while growing up. My last name use to be Polack which, as you know, is a derogatory term for someone who is Polish. My uncles Americanized it by changing the spelling to Pollack, making it sound more like the painter Jackson Pollack’s. My father, a proud idiot, decided that we would keep the original pronunciation. We went through elementary, junior high and high school with that moniker. Thanks, Pop.

We are only second generation Americans and I have a theory that when my grandparents immigrated from Poland and passed through Ellis Island, some wiseguy with a rubber stamp said, “Oh, you’re from Poland? You’re name is Polack.” We’ll never know the truth.

6 thoughts on “The Worth of Your Father

  1. You’ve done a good thing. Totally hard to get off your ass on what should by all rights be a lazy Sunday, absolutely, but, like you said, she’s going to be THRILLED. And the look on her face, the expression that says “My Daddy loves me so much, look what he did for me!” will make the Ho-Ho’s taste like shit in comparison.Well, maybe not shit, but at least more like those inferior Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls…

  2. your quote from “The Weight” prompted me to look up the meaning of the lyrics. this is an interesting sitehttp://theband.hiof.no/articles/the_weight_viney.html(I LOVE the way you dropped that quote in the middle of the story and didn’t reference it. that’s a very powerful motif

  3. This is very interesting! That quote may apply to a song by The Band, but I took it from “Carry That Weight” by The Beatles off of Abbey Road. That part of the album played at the EXACT moment I wrote the paragraph about my father. It knocked me on my ass! Wheels within wheels.

  4. the “defining moments”… there are so many things my parents did and didn’t do that marked me (better and worse). they probably never knew what they were…and this knowledge? made raising my children a tightrope! What offhand remark might i make in a distracted moment that would end up changing a childs self-perception? never mind the “bobbing for french fries” at halloween ;-)Oooh, and i’m lovin’ the transcontinental cosmic musical consciousness! [twilight zone muzak here…]

  5. I second the comments on dad. What father would think the best family vacation is a trip to the pro football hall of fame. The only thing I remember is seeing the brass rail since I was that exact height. If nothing else he taught me never to take my kids there on vacation.MT

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