Last month, the Oy! team wrote about our loving, Jewish mothers– well, now it’s Dad’s turn.
In honor of Dad’s Day, here are some tales of fatherly love:
Forget the forefathers
I always thought it was ironic that we refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as “our fathers.” These three figures had extremely dysfunctional relationships with their children. Abraham almost killed one son at God’s command and tossed the other one out into the middle of the desert. Isaac’s son, with the help of his wife, tricked him while he was blind on his death bed for the blessing. And Jacob played favorites with Joseph and spent his last dying moments chastising some of his sons for their behavior.
It is difficult to find a Cliff Huxtable type among not only our forefathers, but of any Biblical figure in the Tanakh.
So why do we revere the very men who, if they were our own fathers, would cost us many thousands of dollars on a therapist’s couch?
The answer is for some reason that must go back thousands of years, we revere fathers less for their interactions with their children, and more for their prominence and success in the community. While we expect mothers to be nurturing, we expect fathers to make us proud inside and outside of the family.
I find it extremely difficult to write about my relationship with my father not because we don’t have a good one, but because our relationship is less based on our interactions and more on who he is and my great respect and admiration for him.
I do have fond memories of my father as a child: he and my uncle swinging me by my arms; singing to me before bed his own version of, “Do you love me?” from Fiddler on the Roof; acting stern but reasonable when I drank the Chocolotini from the liquor cabinet during a slumber party.
But when I think about my dad I think less about him and me and more about him for himself.
I think about how he came from very modest beginnings (Chicken farmer), to receive a scholarship to Purdue earning a bachelors and masters in five years, to becoming a respected businessman. I think about how much my mother’s mother and father adored him for being a good husband to my mother. I think about how my Zadie and his six siblings entrusted my dad with their family business. I think about how he has been the president of too many Jewish organizations to list. I think about how, after his mother died, he brought my grandpa from New York to South Bend to live with us for a few months until the care became too much and he moved him to a retirement home, where my dad visited at least once a week, usually more. I think about the favors he does for friends. I think about the money he has donated to many organizations. I think of him putting pills for my grandparents in their pill box, looking like a pharmacist, followed by paying their monthly bills when they no longer could. I think about his honest reputation and tremendous integrity, so much so that he is the “go to” person for many, many people for advice, including myself.
I don’t make a move financially without talking to my dad. I don’t make a move professionally without talking to my dad. Some might call this childish, I call it smart, because my dad is wiser than I am, and even if I don’t follow his advice (which I usually do) I at least want to hear it.
His sometimes Solomonic wisdom can be dispassionate, which isn’t always what I want, but is often what I need. He has taught me to be reasonable when I might want to be emotional. And most importantly, he has taught me to take care of myself.
I can tell you stories when he got it wrong as a parent, but that’s my point of view, not an objective one.
Objectively, by anyone’s standards, he is a great man and a great father. Happy father’s day Dad!
Three lessons from my father
By Michael Bregman
My dad, affectionately known as “Bear” by close friends and family, is an imposing figure. There is nothing he can’t fix, and he looks like a cross between the dad from the “Wonder Years” and Abe Vigoda. Beyond his 6’3” frame, my dad is a caring and devoted father. Without his guidance (and that of my mom), I would probably be face down in a gutter somewhere or wandering the streets hungry and naked as I tried to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a fire engine.
Lesson number one: You only have one brother. Never let anything come between you.
For my dad, whose older brother tragically drowned in a lagoon as a child, the brotherly bond is paramount. Each time my brother and I fought my dad would literally whimper and beg us to stop. Seriously, even a simple noogie elicited a whopper of Jewish guilt.
My brother and I support each other at every step of our lives, especially now as we are preparing for our careers. “A doctor and a lawyer” sounds good to any Jewish parents, but who is going to mess with a massive red fire truck? In any event, our parents are our rock.
Lesson number two: Work hard for yourself and your family and don’t look back.
My dad didn’t have the luxury of growing into adulthood with such a rock; He lost his own father to cancer when he was 14. The loss of his brother and father influenced the kind of father that he became. When I was a baby, he would sit next to me in my high-chair, meticulously breaking my Cheerios in half out of fear that I would choke. My dad dropped us off and picked us up from school every day. He has always made sure to do those things that his father wasn’t able to do, all while working hard to provide for us.
Last year, I started my first year of law school while working 40 hours a week. Occasionally, after long night classes, my parents pick me up, with a care package, and give me a lift to my apartment. Through every challenge, my dad has been there for me. I can’t imagine doing what I do without him, as he had to do without his father.
Lesson number three: Speak up for yourself.
Right or wrong, my dad always stood up for us. Unlike him, I was shy and quiet until high school. I realized, by myself but in my dad’s example, that I would have to find my own voice. I plan to take his example of a strong, confident voice into my career as an attorney.
When I taught in the Bronx, most of my students did not live with their fathers. My most successful student did not know his father, but he improved two grade levels in reading during his one year in my class. Even though he has no father to speak up for him, I did my best to give him the tools so that one day he may speak up for himself.
I hope to do the same one day for my own kids.
If I were a boy…
I’m the (very) youngest of my dad’s three girls. There is an 18 year age difference between me and my sisters and it took my mom five years to convince my dad to have another child. While my dad has never admitted to it, part of the third child bargain meant I was to be a boy and for nine months, everyone, including him, assumed I would be. Oops!
So, what did this mean for our father-daughter relationship? Sports. My father was determined to have one daughter who appreciated Chicago’s professional sports teams, starting with his beloved Bears. This was the 80’s, the time of Mike Ditka, Walter Payton and the “Fridge.” He wanted someone to share this enthusiasm during such a historic era. He wasn’t successful. I have very distinct memories trying to hide under many blankets at multiple Bears games** wishing I was anywhere else and there was no way I was watching a game at home with him on TV.
While I didn’t catch Bears fever, my dad found other ways to take advantage of having a young child, particularly around Halloween. While my mom primarily supervised my trick or treating exploits, there was one house each year we reserved for my father, the one belonging to our neighbor, Michael Jordan. My dad would get his once-a-year moment to bask in the presence of MJ while he handed out candy to me and my friends. I did have a slightly higher tolerance for the Bulls, particularly Michael Jordan, and I’d willingly go to those games, but I spent most of the time eating and wandering the stadium.
With two older sisters and my mom steering me towards all things girly, my dad never really stood a chance, but he tried hard and he did succeed in one arena— the Cubs.
Every year, I looked forward to Cubs season and attending games with my dad. There is no better feeling than spending a warm summer day in Wrigley field watching my beloved team play some ball. I can’t really explain the obsession, maybe baseball was easier for me to follow, but that’s where my dad succeeded in getting his “boy.”** And while my dad probably won’t admit it, it’s been my influence (and my ticket buying addiction) that has made him a bigger Cubs fan.
This year we have a new Cubs fan in the family (and he’s a boy!), my nephew Matt. He’s the first grandchild to show any Cubs enthusiasm, and were both hoping he will continue on the family rooting tradition.
The three of us will be celebrating Matt’s first Cubs game and Father’s Day over at Wrigley Field.
Love you Dad—Happy Father’s Day!
** While it took a few years and a boyfriend to get me into football, I love the Bears now and I can’t believe I took for granted my grandfather’s no-longer-in-existence Bears season tickets.
*** Yes, for those of you who’ve been listening to my Cubs temper tantrum, they’re still my beloved team, even though I plan to spend this season pouting about DeRosa and Wood and bashing Milton Bradley and Jim Hendry.
My dad, Dr. North Shore
My dad is kind of a celebrity. He’s so famous that we can’t go anywhere—not out for dinner or on vacation to Disneyworld or even Israel—without seeing some of his adoring fans. The phone is constantly ringing off the hook with calls for him. And people are always asking him for advice…well, medical advice…
Now I know what you’re thinking but no, my dad isn’t Dr. Phil or Patrick Dempsey—he’s a pediatrician. But he’s a famous pediatrician—well at least from Northbrook to Arlington Heights. Seriously, ask any parent in the North Shore if they know Dr. Pervos, and they’ll not only know him, they’ll rave about him: “Dr. Pervos is so wonderful! He’s so kind and gentle with the kids—we won’t take our kids to see anyone else!”
The life of a celebrity-pediatrician isn’t easy. He is constantly working, running back and forth between his two offices, and when he’s not there, he’s making rounds at the hospital or doing paperwork at home. He’s on call almost 24/7, answering questions that range from ridiculous to tragic, from sore throats to cancer. But he answers every call with patience and consideration (unless you’re a family member, in which case he tells you to suck it up and go to school/work).
Despite his rigorous work schedule and masses of adoring fans to attend to, luckily for me and my sister, our celebrity-pediatrician dad also makes plenty of time for us (unless of course it’s Sunday morning—that’s golf day—or if the White Sox are playing). He was one of only a handful of dads in the stands at the ice rink at 6 a.m., cheering us on with all the other “skating moms” and he spent hours transferring videos and later DVDs with theme music and picture menus (yeah, it’s nerdy).
Dad always listens to our tales of strict teachers, mean boyfriends, catty girlfriends and stomachaches and sits through shopping trip after shopping trip. Though he often gets stressed out and upset with us—like when we overdraw on our checking accounts, or accidentally back our new car into the garage door (okay that time he was furious), or can’t seem to wake up or get ready in time, ever— he can almost never stay mad (my “groundings” never lasted more than an hour).
He wears the doctor’s “uniform” of khaki pants and topsider loafers almost every day. He can talk your ear off about golf and the White Sox (and did I mention, golf and the White Sox?). He’s obsessed with Arizona (no we do not need another southwest themed piece of Judaica), has to stop and talk with everyone at the grocery store and gets really cranky on “call” weekends (not with patients, just with us).
But the truth is my dad’s not a celebrity because he rocked a Weird Al mustache for 36 years (which he recently shaved because, seriously, who still has a mustache?). He’s famous because he’s the kind of person, the kind of dad, and the kind of doctor, that everyone wants for their children.
Speaking of, if you’re in the market, my celebrity-pediatrician Dad will be opening a Sanders Court Pediatrics office in the new Affinity building in Buffalo Grove next month! (Good plug, huh Dad?-Love you!)
Rock Solid Dad
At age seven I was crazy about collecting rocks. Once a month, as a treat, Dad would take me to my favorite rock and mineral shop where I’d lust over semi-precious stones such as purple amethysts, dark and haunting Tiger’s Eyes and ever-shiny chunks of Fool’s Gold. My all time favorite gem was the Geode—an ugly on the outside round volcanic rock that when split-open revealed a colorful landscape of gleaming crystals. The trouble with Geodes back then was that they were more money than I could afford as a kid.
One day I got the bright idea that if I gathered in my backyard a bunch of mediocre rocks and then broke them open like Geodes, the collective value of all the little stones would equal that of one nicer stone at the rock shop. My parents went along with the idea and I collected and smashed stones for hours. I never worked so hard in my life! Later on, my mom helped me package my findings by neatly arranging them in a fancy shirtbox and lining the box with pretty blue tissue paper.
Dad then drove me to the rock store where I presented to the store clerk the proud work of my hands and asked to make a trade. After taking one glance at the dull, broken fragments of sand and limestone, the clerk understandably shot me one of those: “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME” looks. I was completely deflated and embarrassed. I mean I had worked so hard!! And then suddenly without explanation, the man’s demeanor miraculously changed for the better. He brightened up and with smile on his face he gingerly led me over to a shelf where he told me I could pick any rock I wanted. Though I couldn’t figure out what had come over the clerk, I was elated. Without hesitation, I chose for myself the cantaloupe-sized Geode that I had desired for an entire year. Today I still treasure that Geode…The End……
NOW WAIT JUST ONE MINUTE!! You are probably wondering why the clerk suddenly changed his tune. Years later I think I figured it out. Just after I presented my proud work for the trade ---I can now picture my father standing behind me and dangling in the plane sight of the store clerk, a crisp $20 bill. As soon as the clerk saw this bill, he smiled and took me to a shelf of rocks each valued at that price. And though my father, the gentleman that he is, still denies that this is what truly happened that day (so that I can remain proud of my trade), I know the truth. The truth is, in this story (and in so many more like it) it is my dad who is the real gem. I love you Dad! Happy Father’s Day!
Horse shows, polo shirts and video tapes
My sister and I have been riding and showing horses for most of our lives. Therefore, our dad has been going to horse shows for most of our lives. We were in Pony Club for what seems like forever—we spent so much time going to lessons, cleaning tack, studying for ratings; even our wardrobes were decked out with our club’s logo. My dad had so many Miami Valley Pony Club polo shirts he has a separate drawer in his dresser for them. When we’d go to a weeklong horse show I just thought that he wore the same outfit every day and that he didn’t mind being super stinky. Turns out he’s a pretty clean guy and had eight of the exact same shirt.
We have 10 years worth of video coverage from all our glories and mishaps, and if you look closely, Dad is in the background of every single tape... wearing the exact same outfit. Kinda creepy, kinda really awesome. In the earlier tapes he’s just chasing after us on the jump course trying to get a good picture, but when he started spooking our horses we all decided it was for the best to leave the photos to the professionals and put Dad on the jump crew to set up the courses and fix knocked down rails. Sometimes he’d be out on the course until 8 at night following drill sergeant directions from the course designers. He was such a good volunteer that one year they offered to pay for his hotel during the show. But, because of his jump crew dedication I’d forget he was even there. (Sorry, Dad.) But then when I’d get home and watch the video, there he was, jogging alongside my horse, in his green polo. I just had no idea.
So, in honor of Dad, my sister and I (and I only say “I” because I’m in the video, not because I was of much help in the production) put together a video tribute to his years of volunteer service. Thanks Trysta. And extra big thanks Dad.