Everyday is Father's Day
Paying tribute to parents is a noble gesture, especially if they are still alive. Doing it after their death sort of diminishes the whole exercise, because they died not knowing that we cared.
Unfortunately, life is such a hassle, trying to make ends meet, which leaves little time for mom and dad. They might also be active people, enjoying life after the kids have left home.
Harry Chapin recorded Cat’s in the Cradle, a sad song about kids and loneliness because parents are busy trying to cut and paste work and family.
The little boy kept asking his father to play with him but he always had some commitment. He would end by saying we’ll get together then. The son grew into a man, his father grew into an old man and wanted to play.
His son apologised because he had things to do and replayed the family tune: we’ll get together dad. They never did.
It is a timeless song that is more meaningful than ever before because digital gadgets and the internet are the new parents.
Big Shoes: In Celebration of Dads and Fatherhood is self-explanatory. Al Roker, a television personality, who has been part of NBC Today Show since 1974 is on the cover of this Hallmark book. He also wrote the introduction.
Amy Rennert is the editor who sorted out the potpourri of testimonials about fathers written by Roker, some of his friends from the show, authors, actors and other people in the public eye.
Roker reminisces about his father and his hopes that he would be able fill in his shoes, big shoes.
‘I lost my father to lung cancer in October of 2001. He died a little more than a month after 9/11. I watched him wither away and die. I had to mourn him while a country mourned the loss of life and innocence.’
Roker also explains why I bought Big Shoes from a gift shop full of greeting cards and I LOVE YOU coffee mugs. Gift Books from Hallmark had this light bulb moment that, just as we have always bought greeting cards, we can also buy this book to express love for our fathers.
Cinema loves movies about good fathers, bad fathers or unknown fathers.
Fatherhood and History
I picked up a lot of history from the 35 testimonials in Big Shoes. For example, Roker remembers his father’s shoes which were always spotless.
That is a whole history, when men had special rituals about polishing their shoes, something that will be lost to a generation that has always worn sneakers. They are also affordable. That is why it is easy to throw away sneakers when their smell causes havoc in God’s air and family peace.
Nina Totenberg, the radio journalist and writer, remembers how her father, famous violinist Roman Totenberg used to call her, Ninotchka, her Polish name.
Her account wanted me to know more about poverty in Russia and Eastern Europe and the hard times he experienced growing up in Poland.
It is one thing to read about the cold facts in a History class, another one to get a first-hand account. Nina Totenberg writes about how her father’s violin used to feed his family.
‘Unlike his father, he was not paid with money but with food, and there was no food to eat anywhere,’ writes Nina Totenberg.
Roman Totenberg was able to read his daughter’s testimony because Big Shoes was published in 2005 and he died in May 2012. Most fathers are not that lucky.
Fathers as Living History
Big Shoes: In Celebration of Dads and Fatherhood is a book about people who either grew up followed by the paparazzi or who work in full glare of television cameras and tele-prompters.
The stories in the book are informative because most of them give us some particles of history. You and your father can also write such a book. It is not as daunting as it seems.
History is not limited to Margaret Thatcher, the only woman to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is not limited to Barack Obama the first black man to become the President of the United States.
History is what happened before, in a country and a family. Family history is just as important as country history because political history is the sum total of many family histories.
Dreams From My Father, President Obama’s book is a very good example of how individual histories end up being political and world history.
Barack Obama’s father was born in Kenya, Africa, so he had no American political connections that are necessary when running for public office.
Justin Pierre James Trudeau, the current leader of The Liberal Party of Canada has family and political history behind him.
He is the eldest son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was the Prime Minister of Canada for 15 years. His eyes are on the prize: his father‘s old office.
Writing Family Memoirs
Kris Kristofferson, the country music singer and actor is one of the contributors to the book Big Shoes. He gives a detailed account of his Swedish-born father, his life as a Pan American pilot and in the war.
We can also help our fathers write their memoirs. Every family has a history, even if it is a bad one. Big Shoes has perfect fathers. None of them had a single blemish.
We could get a better account if fathers wrote the books themselves. They will be able to own up to mistakes that affected family happiness and also correct historical myths about wars and laws that should never been passed in the first place.
We can help our fathers write their stories because we have the tools and language skills, but we don’t have time.
If we had time we would ask our fathers to describe what they love about their lives. We might be hurt if they loved their careers more than us, but understand that they are still individuals who happen to have children.
If we had time we would ask our fathers what they would have done differently, bearing in mind educational, financial, religious and political constraints.
If we had time, we would ask our fathers about advice. What is constant for all generations, things that will never change?
If we had time, we would ask our fathers about the number of chapters in their books and why they want to omit certain experiences.
If we had time, we would tell our fathers about e-books and ways of recording family history.