June 2007
Thanks, Dad

by Annie Fox, M.Ed

[my dad]… was exactly the kind of father I needed to become who I am.
Flower

My dad, Herman “Hy” Larris, died of a sudden heart attack when he was 50 and I was 15. I only had a child’s perspective of him. I knew him as Daddy, a man who loved his wife and three kids and worked hard to provide for us. He had a large extended family (more than 30 first cousins) and loved getting all of us together with them and their kids. My father was a man with a big laugh. He had a kind heart, apple cheeks and warm fleshy hands. He loved the beach, an occasional cigar, borscht, pickled herring, and my mom’s pot roast. He adored Broadway musicals. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel was one of his favorite songs.

Annie and her dadI was his youngest child and his only daughter. As self-absorbed as I was (and believe me, I took self-absorption to gold medal heights), I couldn’t overlook the obvious – my dad got a lot of nachas (joy and pride, especially in one’s children) signing my straight-A report cards, watching me onstage and listening to me sing and play the piano. While I was growing up, he was my #1 fan and I knew it. My eyes just filled with tears as I wrote that last sentence. I still miss him after 40 years.

I treasure my memories of my dad and I continue searching for new ones. I somehow believe I can make him more real by piecing together bits of other people’s stories and anecdotes. The family tree research I began a year ago was motivated by a desire to reconnect with my father and to better understand the people he came from and the legacy I share with them.

With an eye toward legacies, I asked a bunch of close friends and relatives to send me recollections of what they learned from their parents. They sent me some wonderful comments. I posted life lessons from Mom in the May issue. Now it’s Dad’s turn.

My own dad taught me that a roll-with-the-punches attitude helps you keep your perspective when life throws you a curve ball. He used to tell a joke about a poor schnook who continued to laugh even though a series of terrible events had befallen him. An astonished friend asked, “With all that’s happened to you, why are you still laughing?” To which the schnook shrugged and replied, “What else am I going to do?”

Here is some wisdom from other dads:

What life lessons did you learn from your dad?

  • Honesty, loving-kindness, sense of humor, respect for life, importance of family
  • Do your best and then don’t worry about it. You can’t do better than your best.
  • My dad was/is (at age 89) a worker bee and lives life to the fullest as he sees it. If challenged by a physical limitation he finds something to do to stay engaged and creative at all times! Though he wasn’t a man of many words, he balanced my mom by showing with his actions a positive way to work and be in the world.
  • Laughter, integrity, and the value of hard work
  • Be clear, fair, truthful and responsible.
  • Do those little things that often don’t require much more time or effort but which bring much joy into life: fresh flowers, a ripe pear.
  • Follow your dreams. He’d say “I don’t care if you’re a truck driver, as long as that’s really what you want to do”
  • My dad usually wasn’t around so I learned to handle things on my own. As I grew older, I found that he usually wasn’t very wise about life, however I could enjoy his company more because I learned to let him be.
  • David and daughter - Photographed by Annie Fox
  • Learn a little about everything and learn everything about something.
  • Happiness is much more important than money.
  • Possessions aren’t very important. You never want to be stuck because you have too much stuff.
  • “The greatest thing you will ever learn is just to love and be loved in return” This is a line is from the song “Nature Boy” My father often sang this song to his children. This notion of love and being loved was so much an integral part of my father that we engraved it on his tombstone.
  • Be kind, be generous. Don’t steal.
  • Unfortunately from my Dad I learned more about what not to be than any positive lessons. Don’t be too harsh with your children, supporting them emotionally is at least as important as anything financial. Show your family how much you value them, not how much you expect them to do for you.
  • Love the ones you love
  • Earn your own money to buy things – it builds character.
  • It’s ok to cry.
  • With construction, everything takes at least twice as long and costs at least twice as much as your highest estimate.
  • Do what you believe in and to hell with what others think. I used that philosophy to repel his constant pressure to be a good little clone and become what he wanted. I doubt he ever realized he’d given me the ammunition to repel his own attacks.
  • Sometimes patience is more valuable than untimely action that can actually do damage. Don’t just do something. Stand there!
  • Family is number one so give yourself selflessly to the support of your family, friends and community.
  • There is a time for being vulnerable and vulnerability isn’t weakness.

David and sonA father’s love plays an invaluable part in the life of a son and daughter. My children have been blessed with a dad who never holds back encouragement, support or affection. David’s helped our daughter and our son become grounded, self-assured, and responsible young adults. As a fatherless daughter, let me tell you, it’s been a joy to witness his relationship with them. It has given me back something I missed.

When I think about my dad, a part of me feels disappointed that he never saw me and my brothers grow up, become parents and accomplished individuals. He would have been very proud of his children. I’m sorry he and my mom didn’t have more time together. When he died, she was left with a gaping hole in her heart that never really healed. As for me, I’m sad that I never got to say, “Thank you, Dad. You were exactly the kind of father I needed to become who I am.” But then, my dad’s spirit still guides me, so he knows.

Happy Father’s Day to you and yours. Dads, keep up the good work.

In friendship,
Annie

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