by Father Mark Goldasich
A falafel? Wait, what?!?
I was talking with a friend on the phone about Father’s Day when the above words were spoken. I burst out laughing. Eventually, I choked out these words, “No, not falafel. I said, ‘I feel awful!’”
The exchange reminded me of my dad, who was a fan of what are now called “Dad jokes.” This is one of his favorites:
He once answered the phone as a kid and the person on the other end asked for one of his brothers. Dad replied, “He’s eatin’.” The person on the other end said, “Hezitin? Is that his nickname?” To which Dad replied, “No, I said, ‘He’s. Eatin’.’” And then Dad would laugh and laugh until he got tears in his eyes.
Now, I bet I heard that story about a thousand times — and I’d guess he told it another several thousand times to others — but he laughed just as hard with each telling. And I’m sure I rolled my eyes an equal number of times.
My dad, Carl, will be gone 39 years this September. And, with Father’s Day a couple of weeks away, he’s been on my mind. He reminds me a lot of the father described in this story:
A family was planning a month’s vacation in California. At the last minute, the father’s work responsibilities prevented him from going. Mom insisted that she could handle all the arrangements as well as the driving. It was decided that she and the kids would go ahead with the trip. Dad got out the maps and together they planned the route and where the family would stop each night.
A couple of weeks after the family departed, the father finished his extra work and decided to join the family. So, he flew out to a city in California without telling them or calling them. Then he took a taxi out to the county highway that, according to his travel plan, his family should be driving down later that day. The taxi dropped him off on the side of the road, and the dad stood there waiting. Within the hour, when he saw the family car coming, he stuck out his thumb like a hitchhiker.
Mom and the kids drove right past him. One of the kids, though, shouted, “Hey, wasn’t that Dad that we just passed?” Mom screeched to a stop, backed up to the hitchhiker and the family shared a joyful reunion.
Later, a reporter from the local paper interviewed the man and asked why he would do such a crazy thing. He responded, “After I die, I want my kids to be able to say, ‘Dad sure was fun, wasn’t he?’” (Story found in Medard Laz’s “Love Adds A Little Chocolate.”)
My dad was fun. Oh, certainly, he was other things as well: a loving husband and father; active in his Catholic faith; a hard worker, putting in 32 years on the assembly line at General Motors; the letter writer to me whenever I was away at school; and “Mr. Fixit” in his spare time for family and friends.
But, overall, he was fun. And that fun was expressed not only in laughter, but in song. From making up silly songs with nonsensical words to whistling to joining his friends to croon, Dad always seemed to carry a song in his heart.
So, why in the world, would Father’s Day make me feel awful? Naturally, I still miss him, but that’s not the reason. I feel awful because I can’t remember a single card or gift that I gave my dad for Father’s Day . . . except for my prayers. And, knowing Dad, that was enough.
This Father’s Day, put prayer at the top of your gift list. Here’s one written by Pope John XXIII:
St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus and husband of Mary, you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty. You supported the holy family of Nazareth with the work of your hands.
Kindly protect all fathers who trustingly come to you. You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes. They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them.
You, too, knew trial, labor and weariness. But amid the worries of life, your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy . . .
Assure those you protect that they do not labor alone. Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over their families faithfully. Amen.
And, on June 21, if you hear someone singing at Mount Calvary Cemetery in KCK, it’s just my little belated gift to a fun dad.