Friday Jun 19 2009
To all fathers: One day isn’t too much to ask
By: Tony Hazarian, publisher, Auburn Journal
Today is Father’s Day, a stereotypical day – for some – of bad ties, beer and barbecues. For me, it’s more than that. While a cold one and a hot steak never get old, I’ve got enough bad ties in my closet to last the rest of my life. So please, no gifts. Father’s Day is personal, and reflective, and reverential. It’s about following in my Dad’s footsteps. And I wonder: Will my kids view me the same way one day? My Dad’s story isn’t sensational, but rather typical of those of the “Greatest Generation.” Born in Lebanon in 1922, his family escaped Armenian persecution in the region and immigrated to Wisconsin where extended family had settled. A Depression survivor, he served valiantly as an Army mechanic in Japan during World War II. He came home, earned a bachelor’s degree on the G.I. Bill, and married his college sweetheart – a good Midwest farm girl – in 1951. He became a high school teacher, and when the West called, he answered. With three small children, they packed up the Mercury and moved cross-country to the agricultural burg of San Jose, where he was offered a teaching position at San Jose State College. My Dad saved everything he had for a down payment on a four-bedroom house; asking price, $14,000. Across the street were prune and apricot orchards as far as the eye could see. The deal nearly fell through, but the builder trusted my Dad and loaned him about $1,000 on a handshake. Two boys later, our family of seven grew up – way too fast, just like today. My Dad built an adjoining carport on the house and converted the old garage to a family room where we all gathered every night. At 1,400 square feet, our home felt like a castle compared to the homes of my friends. Our summer vacations weren’t spent on the beaches of Hawaii or the streets of Rome, but visiting family in Racine and Menomonie, the Wisconsin towns where my Dad and Mom grew up. Each July or August we’d pack up the station wagon and head east. In the beginning it was a full day’s drive from San Jose to Donner Summit – with a stop in Auburn, of course – but that drive extended as Interstate 80 was completed. As the years passed, the passenger list got shorter as my brothers and sisters graduated from high school or got summer jobs. Eventually, flights replaced fill-ups, but Fiji or France never replaced family. My folks will make their annual trip to Wisconsin in September. What I didn’t know at the time was that those vacation savings were going into the bank for our college educations. Nothing was ever mentioned. But when the time came, the money was there. A few years ago, my brothers and I decided it was time to pay Dad back by taking him to baseball spring training in Arizona. As long as he kept up, we’d take care of all the arrangements. Trouble was, he was still the Dad. That first night in Phoenix, he picked up the dinner tab, grabbing the check like a crazed fan reaching for a foul ball. If our tradition was to treat him, his tradition was going to treat us. Nothing has changed on our five “boys only” trips to the desert. My Dad has taught me much. When I was struggling in a junior golf tournament, he was there with an encouraging fist pump for the next hole. When my waddling 2-year-old daughter fell, scraping her forehead, he bought her a stuffed Barney dinosaur doll. And when my first marriage ended, his hug offered comfort born from a generation of love, understanding and forgiveness. Like my Mom, he opened his arms to my new family, allowing my wife and stepchildren a glimpse at the man I will always strive to be. While his gait might be slower and his naps more frequent, his eyes twinkle brightest at the thought of his family. He says his children are his greatest accomplishment, and when I look at my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and extended branches of the family tree, I see why. Patience. Humility. Kindness. Generosity. If I have any of these qualities, they didn’t come from lectures or speeches from my Dad, but from his behavior. I’ve learned from my Dad that it doesn’t matter what I say to my kids unless I live up to the words I speak. And if I say nothing, let my actions speak for me. So thanks, Parnik Hazarian, for everything. You’ve taught me that being a good father isn’t easy, but it can be so rewarding when you take one day – even just a few moments of one day – to reflect on what being a father really means. And to all the other dads, stepdads, grandpas and great-grandpas, Happy Father’s Day. You deserve your day of honor.