“Look with your eyes!”
Those four simple words usually came from my father’s mouth with a tinge of agitation. If you were struggling to find something, and he knew where it was, rather than sharing that information with you, he would simply tell you to look with your eyes.
There were other gems, too – like the classic, “do you want something to cry about?” and, “come here so I can hit you” – but, “look with your eyes” just strikes a chord with me.
There is something very Yogi Berra about that command, which is why, even in my 50s, it’s endearing to the point that it can almost bring a tear to my eye these days. My father is still with us, but because of the pandemic, I haven’t seen him in a year and a half. Two Father’s Days without seeing him open his gift, attempting to look delighted and surprised by the golf shirt I bought him.
Father’s Day, as it turns out, did not officially become a thing until a good 50 years after Mother’s Day. People campaigned for it, even celebrated it around the country, but getting Father’s Day proclaimed an official holiday took some doing.
Woodrow Wilson first attempted in 1916, but Congress did not like that idea, fearing it would become too commercialized. Finally, Richard Nixon signed Father’s Day into law as a national holiday in 1972.
In the end, Congress was right: Father’s Day is commercialized, like just about every other national holiday. Who cares? Fathers deserve their day, too – fathers who are there for their children. Sadly, a lot of them aren’t. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than one in four children – 19.5 million – live in fatherless homes.
These numbers are heartbreaking, but they also remind me of how fortunate I have been in this life. I had someone there to gruffly remind me to look with my eyes, and the same man used to chase me down the driveway as I pulled out, just to make sure I was wearing my seat belt. After I’d spent hours getting dressed for prom or some other big event, he would ask, “What happened to your hair?” as I walked into the living room to show off my look.
My father did much more than torment and annoy me through my adolescence. He taught me things about life. Every Christmas, there would be a present under the tree for me, just from him. Usually, it was something he had picked up while travelling, like a doll. It always made me feel special, loved. He taught me that people need to feel valued and important. He also taught me to wash my hands, get my oil changed and pay my bills on time.
Now that we are both a little older, my father is also one of my best friends. I can tell him anything, and he will call me out on my nonsense. He also reminds me regularly that I am still his baby. And, when I need him, I know all I need to do is look with my heart … and he’ll be there.