Column Classic: Happy Father’s Day

by Lisa Scottoline

Those of you who read my column know that my mother is extraordinary.  My father is, too, though he has passed away.  The fact that he’s gone doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped loving him.  The human heart doesn’t work that way.  Fact is, I’m still a daddy’s girl.

Let me explain.

I’ll start by telling you what my father, Frank Scottoline, was not.  He couldn’t fix everything; he didn’t have all the answers.  He wasn’t one of these all-knowing, omnipotent fathers who solve all problems, handle all situations, and generally stand-in for God or, at least, Santa Claus. 

He wasn’t a tough guy, either.  He couldn’t even bargain for a Christmas tree.  One Christmas Eve, we ended up paying $50 for the Charlie Browniest tree on the lot.  The asking price was $35. 

Nor was he a sugar-daddy kind of father, granting all the requests of his adored, and only, daughter.  In fact, though I was always adored, I found out at midlife that I wasn’t even his only daughter. 

I learned I had a half-sister, whom he had fathered while in college at Berkeley.  She had been put up for adoption in California and eventually came to find him.  He opened his arms to her, even though meeting her was like a bad episode of The Patty Duke Show, which may be redundant. 

So he made mistakes, some with blue eyes.  By the way, before you feel sorry for her, she got a wonderful adoptive family.  I got The Flying Scottolines.  At least I wrote a novel about it – in fact, several.  My family is a miniseries.

Above all, my father loved life.  He liked everybody and he ate anything.  I cannot remember him not smiling.  He accepted all.  When he found out my brother was gay, he went down to South Beach to help him open a gay bar.  I’m not sure who got the first dance.

He was agreeable and easy.  I remember once he told me he’d seen the movie Hideous Kinky, and I asked him why.  He said, “Because that’s where the line was going.” 

He was a reliable man, too.  An architect, he never missed a day of work for sickness or any other reason.  Never.  He loved his job, always.  Any trip in the car would inevitably take us past a construction site, and he’d get out and explain how the building was being constructed.  He was always home at 6:15 and he always fell asleep on the living room, after dinner.  Sleeping on the floor is a big thing in my family.

Of course, he was most reliable about me.  We talked all the time, about everything, from as far back as I can remember.  He always asked what I learned in school that day and listened carefully to my answer.  He helped me with my trig homework; he taught me to read a map.  He drove me and my friends everywhere, both ways – no trading off with other parents for him. 

He clapped at every high school play when I was young.  He beamed through every book signing when I was older.  At one of my signings, someone said to him, “You must be very proud of your daughter, now that she’s an author.” 

He replied, “I was proud of her the day she came out of the egg.”

And he was.

I felt his love and pride all the time, no matter how I screwed up.  When my first marriage foundered, about the time my daughter was born, I quit my job and went completely broke.  He didn’t have much money, but what he had, he offered to me. 

When I found a job part-time, he babysat for my daughter every morning, made her breakfast, and took her to school.  From him, she learned that it was possible to toast a bagel with the cream cheese already on top. 

She will never forget that.  Nor will I.

Sometimes I feel sorry for fathers.  It’s as if they’re the supporting actor of parents, second-best.  It’s like we have a Father’s Day only because we don’t want them to feel left out after Mother’s Day.  In a Dick-and-Jane world, it’s moms who get top billing, and fathers who are simply, at best, there.

But may I suggest something? 

There’s a lot to be said for simply being there. 

There is underrated.  There is a sleeper.  There doesn’t get much hype, but there is about love and devotion.  About constancy and sacrifice.

My father was always there.  And whenever he was with me, I knew it was exactly where he wanted to be.  There.

And I feel absolutely certain that, even in this day of cell phones and Blackberries, he wouldn’t be on either of them when he was there.  In all my adult life, I have never met anyone who was so completely there.

Here is my wish for you: 

This Father’s Day, may you be lucky enough to have your father there.

© Copyright Lisa Scottoline