Observing US:
A column about America,
by Marylaine Block
originally published by
Fox News Online, 1998-2000

#91, June 13, 2000


by Marylaine Block

When a local radio station gave away two free tickets to a Britney Spears concert to the man who won their Britney Spears lookalike contest, you'd be surprised how many men showed up in blonde wigs, short skirts, and tops that bared their hairy bellybuttons, just to bring those tickets home to their teenage daughters. Whether they won the tickets or not, they showed their daughters that they loved them enough to make complete fools of themselves in public to make them happy.

So many dads who have a hard time saying, "I love you" prove it with their actions instead. And we may not even notice that they're doing it.

Here's the nicest thing I know about my dad: he and mom dropped me (the youngest of their four kids) off at college to begin my freshman year. As they were driving away, my father said, "Thank God. I will never eat another vegetable." I hadn't realized that he had been setting that particular good example for 27 years, and hated every second of it.

One of my readers said her father couldn't understand why she never wanted to play outside, and always had her nose stuck in a book. One day, he grabbed her book, shoved her outside with it, and locked the door, telling her she should at least do her reading outside. It was a favor she never forgot, she says, because "sitting outside listening to birds while I read was even more relaxing and comforting than the total silence I typically read in. Many years later my dad was working on a word puzzle and I gave him the appropriate answer without much thought. He looked up at me and asked me how I knew that, and I smiled and said 'remember that book you made me read outside? It was in there.'"

My friend Nancy's father didn't quite know how to talk to little girls. Instead he did things with her, taking her to high school basketball games and teaching her how to score the games. A carpenter, he also built things for her, dollhouse furniture when she was little, and later a big tree house so beautifully constructed, with handmade matching furniture, that Nancy sometimes had overnights there, and the neighbors would gather there for coffee and a chat.

Even when the grand gestures fathers plan don't quite come off, kids still remember and cherish them. Another friend told me about her 13th birthday, when her stepfather hired a pilot to take her for her first airplane ride. Meanwhile, he had painted "Happy, birthday, Chris!" on their roof, so she'd see it when they buzzed over. Since it rained that day and washed away the paint, she only heard about that part later. But she never forgot it.

Another friend remembers that when he was ten, his father worked with him for weeks to create a hockey rink in their back yard, sprinkling water on the ice sheet each night to build up the ice evenly. They painted the lines in with regular house paint, built another layer of ice over it, and got ready to play their first game. But, he says, "a warm front moved in, the light snow turned to rain, and the next morning I woke up and looked out the window at our center lines, goal lines and blue lines running down the driveway in a stream of colored water. Dad was as disappointed as I was. He compensated us by taking us to the regular hockey games at the local forum for the rest of the season."

Sometimes what we remember is that our dads set us free to become whatever we wanted to be. My brother told me a story about our dad. Walt says that when he turned 13, dad told him that "up to now he and Mom had taught me all the things they thought were right or wrong, but it was now up to me to think about those things and make up my own mind."

This Father's Day, think about the things your dad did for you -- not just the big splashy ones, but also the silly ones, and the little daily things that added up. And if he's still around, tell him "Thanks. I needed that."

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