Sunday, June 18, 2017

Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all our dads… such as they are

HALLIE EPHRON: My dad was a decidedly mixed bag. The youngest of four boys, no doubt treated like a little prince, he grew up popular (president of his senior class at Evander Childs high school in the Bronx). 
He was a snaggle-toothed charmer. He loved to entertain wearing a plaid silk dinner jacket and, in his old age, an ascot to hide his sagging chin. A raconteur, he told endless stories about Broadway and Hollywood (he wrote plays and movies with my mom). And then he'd tell them again and again.

A ladies’ man. Too much of a ladies’ man. A narcissist. A chain smoker. A drunk.

But always, always, he was besotted with his four daughters. We were beautiful, smart, funny: just ask him! And that unabashed love papered over some of his shortcomings.

I have four writing sisters, and he’s appeared in all of our books. He’s the model for Arthur Unger who gets murdered in the opening chapter of my novel, Night Night, Sleep Tight.

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Arthur Unger slides open the glass door and steps out onto his flagstone patio. He’s had a few drinks but he doesn’t feel them. It’s late at night, and though the sky is clear and there is no moon, there are no stars, either. There never are. Between ambient light and air pollution, he’d have to drive to Mount Baldy to see Orion’s Belt.

The sky is . . . He gazes up at it. Opaque? Inky? Like warm tar? His ex-wife would have nailed it. She was great at narrative description and dialogue. And of course, she could type. He was the plotmeister. Arthur takes a final drag on his cigarette, the tip glowing in the dark, and stubs it out in one of the dirt-filled, terra-cotta planters in which Gloria once cultivated gladiolus. Or was it gardenias? Something with a G.

He's why I cherish the fathers I now have in my life. My husband Jerry (pictured with our daughter's). 


And my son-in-law (pictured walking the beach with my grandson).



They are solid. Loving. Smart. Generous. Like my dad, totally besotted with their children, but in all other ways completely different. I count my blessings.

Hoping you all will share a snippet of the dads in your life.

61 comments:

  1. We’ve just spent several days with the girls and their families. It’s such a blessing to see how much the dads treasure their children . . . Our family is blessed. Happy Father’s Day.

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  2. Sniff. You got me with those pictures, Hallie. My father was a sweet, gentle, funny introvert who adored his children, but he died before he could meet mine and I still miss him. My sons aren't fathers yet but I know they will be just as caring and adoring.

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  3. Hallie, I did wonder about Arthur Unger but didn't like to ask. Or did I ask?

    My father was born to German immigrants and raised on a poor dirt farm in north east Kansas. He had one older brother, mentally challenged but a savant. Uncle Eckert had no education beyond the primary grades. My father was the boy prince, was sent off to boarding school when he was maybe twelve, paid for by my grandmother's "egg" money. German was his first language, didn't speak English until he started to school. He pursued education thru seminary, Lutheran, although he never had a church, went on to grad school, took some time off for WW2, naval officer, and ended up with a MA, a PhD, a philologist who taught German, duh.

    He adored me and my mother and not much else, although he was a lovely grandfather to my first three children, and he died at 59 when my youngest was an infant.

    He was also a consummate anti-Semitic who believed the Holocaust was a Zionist plot.

    Save that, he was brilliant, fluent in two languages, well-read in more, and perfectly gorgeous in a Siegfried sort of way.

    He died suddenly in 1968, so I can't say I miss him. We had a difficult relationship considering my pinko commie liberal bent. My mother took a deep breath and married again two years later, chose another much like the first.

    His name was Freidrich Eduoard Max Eberwein. Achtung!

    Oh well.



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    1. that's an amazing story. Wow, sometimes its hard for us people to learn...

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    2. Finta, sounds like yours was another 'mixed bag' with redeeming features. Worthy of being written about!

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    3. I might add that my mother's name was Esther Eberwein. I could pass.

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  4. Happy Father's Day everyone! I know we all have stories… Isn't that really touching? Hallie, you wouldn't be who you are without that father, right? I learned so much from my father: love and tolerance and music and a worldview. And from my stepfather : analytical thinking, tough questioning, organization, preparation, negotiation. One of them was largely not present in my life until I was much older, the other, present, but not emotionally so. Still, I wouldn't be who I am without them both.
    My stepson is an off the charts fabulous dad in every way.
    Happy Father's Day all.

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  5. Yes, my biological father looked like Arthur Miller, and my stepfather looked like John Ehrlichman. Nuff said.

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  6. My dad was a sweetheart who adored us four kids as well. Off the charts smart, funny, adventurous, and flawed too:). Grateful to have had him. And like some of you, my son-in-law is a super father--warm, supportive, solid--Dorothea will be a lucky girl to have him in her corner.

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    1. Lucy,

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful story.

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  7. Our 'normals' were all we knew--my dad, I think, had a hard time raising eight kids--some more rebellious than others--through adolescence into adulthood. But he came into his stride as a grandfather--there was never a little boy who couldn't snuggle, steal coins from his pocket, or drag him outside for a 'walkie-walkie'.

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    1. Here it's 'bookie-bookie!' As a grandparent now I appreciate how much easier it is to enjoy your GRANDkids than it was to slow own and savor your own kids. Eight?!?!?

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  8. As an adult I can attribute some of my father's drinking and sudden rages to PTSD. He was one of the last men off an aircraft carrier, sunk by a kamikaze attack off the Philippines in WWII. But I'm not sure all of his flaws spring from there. He was the youngest of two, but his mother favored the eldest, so some of his ego issues stem from that. He is philanderer, a master manipulator, and always needs to blame whatever is wrong with his life on some nearby female. I don't mind being the bad daughter, but I have long since learned I don't have to be nearby. He crossed the line with me for the last time shortly after my husband died, when I could have used some family support. We'll just say he managed to turn that opportunity toxic, too. He's now in his nineties. My sister and her family are still close with him, and I see him when I visit her but otherwise . . . yeah, Father's Day is not an easy day for me.

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    1. Thanks, y'all. It's not that he has no redeeming features. He was a war hero. He was a respected college professor. He's very smart. It's just that I can see his strengths better from a distance.

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    2. Some people are better with other people's children than they are with their own kids.

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  9. Happy Father's Day! My dad is still alive. He's got his faults, but in general has a great sense of humor and he loves his four kids wholeheartedly (and sometimes that's one of his problems - he couldn't ever say no, which caused some financial stress when someone wanted something really expensive).

    My FIL - well, I think The Hubby said it best. In some ways, he's still a child. And that's not always a good thing. He was very demanding of his boys (said once he never wanted kids, he did it because his wife wanted kids) and that has caused issues for them later in life.

    The Hubby loves his kids. Sometimes he has flashes of his father (overly demanding), but I hope as my two leave teenager-hood they look back on him fondly.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Sounds like, on the whole, he turned out to be a pretty good bargain.

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    2. Agreed that he turned out to be a pretty good bargain.

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  10. My dad definitely had his angels and his demons. He was a handsome, very intelligent man from a big Irish family. When we were little, he was a loving father to the 7 of us. Even in the early sixties, he was a hands-on father who would change diapers or do any other chore that needed doing. My mother's friends all envied her that. He taught us all to tie our shoes, ride bikes, say our prayers, etc. On Sundays, when my mom was cooking Sunday dinner, he'd pile us all into the station wagon and take us to one of the local zoos. He was at his happiest when his big extended family got together, and we were, too. As we entered teenage years, though, he became more difficult. He suffered bad ulcers and worked long hours and that made him cranky. He was a perfectionist who expected perfectionism, in grades and in chores around the house. (And I wonder why I can't turn off my inner editor?) He felt his word as head of the household should be unquestioningly accepted, and it wasn't. That caused a lot of conflict. Still, he always stood up for what he believed in, he passed down a great work ethic, and we always knew he loved us. I miss him.

    I can say a lot of things about my ex, which I won't bore you with, but he and my two brothers are the three best dad I know, so creative and fun and unselfish with their time and themselves.

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    1. Pain and exhaustion can wear a person down... tolerance goes first.

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  11. Happy Father's Day everyone!

    My Dad came from a military family. He was orphaned at a very young age. He had a very difficult life, which colored his world view. "Nuff said! I am amazed that he did as well as he did as an adult.

    MaryC - that is wonderful about three best dad you know!

    Hallie - it is true that pain and exhaustion can wear a person down.

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  12. Hallie,

    Love the photo of your daughters with their dad. They are beautiful like you are. And your son in law with your grandchild. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks! These are my favorite people. Plus my granddaughter.

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  13. One of the great things about having a flawed parent is that it shows you how not to be. Both my parents were deeply human when I was growing up, making our lives way harder than they had to be. But hiding out from bill collectors because my dad drank every paycheck? Made me rock-solid sure I would never put myself or anyone else through such humiliation. How's that for finding the silver lining?

    However, I've been super fortunate to have had two wonderful fathers-in-law who both loved me unconditionally, which made up for a lot. And I chose my second (and forever) husband largely on how he treated my then-seven year old daughter (and me, of course). With respect, by golly. She is now 46, and to this day they are strongly simpatico.

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    1. I should also say that Steve has helped my daughter fill in some of the gaps left by her own dad, as well.

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    2. Interesting, how some people feel inexorably dawn to repeat the mistakes of their fathers. Others run the other way.

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    3. I'll take that silver lining, Karen. I think I picked my beloved husband based on how much he wasn't like my dad, but was much like a grandfather I adored. Good for you, learning how to tell a shining example from a hideous warning.

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  14. Hallie, what lovely pictures, especially the one of Jerry with the girls.

    My Dad, both my parents in fact, did the best they could and I'm grateful that they gave me the opportunity.

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  15. Hallie, love the photos.

    My dad was what we used to call a "self-made man." Came from nothing, with only an eighth grade education, had no use for his family except for his youngest sister to whom he remained close their entire lives. He worked three jobs during the Depression, then managed to build his own successful business and the comfortable middle-class life he'd never known growing up. He placed a huge value on education--there was never any question that my brother and I would go to college, an opportunity that he never had. He was quiet, kind, funny, and generous to a fault. He adored me, and was so proud of my writing career that he would stop complete strangers and give them bookmarks. I think if he'd had the advantages, he would have done something creative.

    Of course he had his faults, and his demons, including suffering from depression. But all in all he was a darling man and I was very lucky to have been his daughter. Gosh, I miss him, and he's been gone for thirteen years.

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    1. All your stories about your dad are full of love and laughter, and he handed down a mean margarita recipe. I'm sorry I never got to meet him.

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    2. He sounds like a perfectly lovely human being...with emphasis on 'human'- What sweet memories!

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  16. On the phone today with my sister I said, "Happy Father's Day, Daddy!" and then said, "I won't be posting any lovely tributes on Facebook today!" He died thirty years ago -- lung cancer and emphysema -- he drank and smoked and abused his children. He was also funny and smart. My mother remarried when she was 75 and I have a darling (though ailing) step-father. My father thought only of himself. My step-father is amazingly generous and sweet.

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    1. So nice you struck gold the second time around!

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    2. Denise, my mother also remarried--twice, and both times to men who were sober, kind, responsible, and ever so good to both her and to her four kids. Once she got over her first disastrous marriage she seemed to have the knack to finding wonderful men who adored her.

      They were both recent widowers, and I wonder how much that had to do with it.

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  17. I had far too little time with my dad, but I'm grateful for what I did have. He grew up in Montana, the child of homesteaders, and discovered early on that his dreams surpassed his circumstances. He went to MIT, never having been east before, and then Harvard medical school. He went on to have an exemplary career in ophthalmology and was one of the pioneers of corneal transplantation. His professional accomplishments were noteworthy, but more importantly, he raised me and my sisters to be competent, caring people who appreciated books, good food, and travel, among other things. One of the highlights of his life was encountering John Updike in an elevator of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He told Updike he was a huge fan of his work, but that some of his friends weren't. Updike replied, "Well, doctor, your friends are very wicked people."

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    1. Your dad sounds like a great guy, Ingrid. What a huge step that must have been for him to leave home and go to MIT.

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  18. My father passed away a few days before Father's Day last year. So while this is technically my second holiday without him, it feels like the first. We had a complicated relationship. I'll write about it one day but today is not that day :) Happy Father's Day, All!

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    1. Complicated. Such a perfect word for an imperfect world.

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  19. So touching to read such honest thoughts about your fathers. My Dad was a very shy, quiet man. Once I was with him when he gave the treasurer's report to the vestry. He said very quietly afterwards that he had memorized a lot of little jokes but was too nervous and forgot them all. He drank too much and smoked too much and towards the end laughed too little. And yet he was the best father he know how to be, and that is enough.

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  20. Like Debs' father, my father was a self-made man who came from humble beginnings. He was a successful real estate broker, who developed the first two subdivisions in our county. He provided wonderfully for his four children and my mother, who, of course, never got enough credit for her part in helping him. He was more involved with we kids from a practical standpoint of having to drive us wherever we had to go until we got our driver's license. My mother didn't drive, although I think she would have with more encouragement and time to learn, as she did have a permit several times. But, it fell to my father to drive the family and the kids for a long time. It's little wonder that he was happy to get us a car when we got our licenses. He was natty dresser, with his laundered (his insistence) shirts and suits and ties. I'm the only one in the family who could pick out a tie he liked. For many years he was treasurer of the regional Methodist churches and was a regular church attendee. He loved to talk to people, which in his line of business was a real asset, and many a time my mother and I would go shopping in a mall, leaving him in the seated areas to have conversations with strangers, who weren't after a while. So, he did so many things right and gave me advantages I owe to him. However, I can't say he was close to his children. He did his duties well, but I didn't feel he had an emotional passion for us or even a particular pride. Maybe I'm wrong and he just didn't know how to express it, but when some people, especially females, talk about how they were the apple of their daddy's eye or that their daddy held them close, I can't relate. I excelled in school, which my mother, a former teacher before I was born, was indeed proud of and encouraged. But, I remember my father stating once that he admired my sister-in-law, my brother's first wife who worked with him in real estate and didn't go to college, for her common sense and streets smart (not how he put it) and wasn't impressed with college education. That stung. Of course, I realize how lucky I was that he provided so well for us, didn't abuse us or alcohol, and was an upstanding citizen of the community. I just wish we had had more of an emotional connection.

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    1. A good reminder here, to make sure we hug to SHOW and TELL the people we love them that we do.

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    2. Hallie, I was lucky that my mother did know how to express her love, and, as a result, I have no trouble doing so either.

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  21. PART 1

    I wrote the original version of this piece on the first Father's Day after my dad died. It has been updated through the years, but I hope it does the trick.

    "On this Father's Day, I wanted to take a blog post and remember a couple father/father figures and mention some other dad type related passing thoughts.

    My dad has been gone for more than 11 years now. He was a husband, dad to three kids, a police officer, a ham radio enthusiast, loved computers, yodeling music, tinkering, building things, buying cookbooks and so many other things too numerous to mention here. He took me to my first rock concert despite the fact that he didn't like rock music at all. He took me to my first Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics games, and he didn't care for sports all that much.

    Along with my mother, he was in the stands rooting me on when the teams I coached won championships, and he told many people how proud he was of my coaching work. He grew up without much of a stable home life, but gave my mom, my siblings and me that which he never had.
     
    When he was in the hospital the final time, a man he had arrested in the past came to visit him and thanked him for helping him straighten out. Cops from all over the region came to his wake and the place he grew up as a child allowed his final wish to have his ashes spread on their grounds.

    He was proud of me for my coaching...I'm proud to be the son of George Roberts.

    My basketball father has been gone for more than 12 years now. When I was a kid, Tony Dias was the only one who ever encouraged me when I would tell any of the coaches in the basketball league that I wanted to be a coach when I grew up. But 25 years later, not only did I coach but I spent time in charge of the program as well. And I got to coach with him as a fellow assistant and with him by my side, working as my assistant. And while my hard work plays a part in that, I lay the credit at his feet. I would not have gotten to where I did in basketball today without his encouragement.
     
    I attended his wake and funeral which is something I never do if I can avoid it. At the wake, his son Tony Jr. gave the eulogy and it was well done. I had written a piece that got printed in the local paper. When the family got a copy of it, they said it was better than the one his son gave.

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    1. PART 2

      This has always struck me a little funny. I've never felt the particular need to become a dad myself, but I had this girl who played 8 seasons for me somehow manage to become a sort of daughter to me or at least I had a paternal feeling towards her. When she told me she was moving out of town after the winter season one year, I was worried that she'd be missing out on the basketball league. But she told me that she'd still be signing up for the summer league and I was thankfully able to get her back on the team. And I was happy when she told me that she was moving back to town before the start of the next winter season.

      I don't know exactly why, but for some reason that girl and I connected from the first practice we had together. Her mom said that her daughter really respects me. I told her part of that is because I would never lie to her (and never did). For me, in basketball terms, she's my "daughter". I raised her to become the player she was. And she wanted to coach with me after she was done playing. I can't think of a better compliment.
       
      She's 20 now and after a rough go of it, she is in school studying to be a nurse. Once when she was working at her grocery store job, I was in her line. She was talking to the customer in front of me and I thought she had said that I was still coaching in the youth league. I responded that I was now an ex-coach. But as it turned out she had said that I was her youth league coach. When I said "ex-coach", she replied with "I don't consider you my ex-coach."

      So to my Dad, I send my love and I miss you every day.

      To Tony, I miss you and thank you for what you did for me.

      And to that player, you made coaching you worth every second.

      Happy Father's Day to all Dads both biological and by example."

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    2. Your dad and Tony sound like they were wonderful men, Jay! I love the story about your basketball player. It shows that we all be a positive influence on other people, even if we don't fit a familial role like dad or mom. Thanks for sharing this!

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    3. Thanks for reading Ingrid, I don't share this piece often but I thought it fit here today.

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    4. Jay! This is so touching..thank you!

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    5. Hank, thanks for reading the reply and I'm glad you liked it.

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    6. Hallie Ephron, I saw your father once at an MWA/NY meeting. He was introduced to the room by Nick Pileggi.A long time ago.

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    7. Whoa! Triss, thanks for sharing that. I knew he's been to a meeting or two. He was the producer of the film "23 Paces to Baker Street" which is how his MWA connection came about. Margery Flax has told me she met him, too. (Nick is my brother-in-law.) Must have been in the late '80s.

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  22. Pileggi was pretty famous by then and probably everyone there knew who he was. He introduced your dad as his father-in-law.A very nice moment.

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