On this momentous occasion of my last Father's Day living at home full-time (let's hope), I wanted to take some time to recognize everything you haven't done for me as a father over the years. And, no, this isn't some angsty, eleventh-hour confession of pent-up anger from a bratty 18-year-old thinking too highly of herself; however, I have come to a realization, through the Father's Day cards I have filled out for you in my eighteen years, that I would like to share with you in my final column for this summer.
The notes I write on Hallmark Father's Day cards each year are sincere but, sadly, fairly standard. “Dear Dad,” I scribble on the card in the kitchen while you sit in the family room/in the back seat of the car on the way to a celebratory dinner (regardless of the circumstances, I have left filling out your card until the last minute). “Happy Father's Day,” the next line inevitably reads. “I love you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you have done for me.” I then go on to make a lengthy, yet incomplete, list of the various chores you have done, gifts you have given and games and events of mine that you had attended within the year. “I appreciate it all, even though I don't tell you enough.”
My sentiments are genuine and my appreciation is real, but I tend to focus only on what you as a father have done for me. Yes, I wholly appreciate you making dinners when mom isn't home, paying bills and rescuing four-year-old me screaming in the tub because, "I have soap in my eye!" But what about the things you have not done, and the words you have not spoken, that have made a real difference in my life?
In my twelve years of Catholic education, I did manage to learn a thing or two about other religions, including Hinduism, which teaches satyagraha, a principle that is roughly defined as "passive action.” My understanding of satyagraha—have pity on me, Middle Eastern Studies majors—is that purposeful passivity can have meaning, that consciously doing nothing can have profound effects.
I couldn't help but think of satyagraha when thinking about why I am thankful for you, Dad. You have not pressured me to be high-achieving in school or sports and never forced me to quit or join certain activities. You have only made sure I did my homework, didn't waste away watching too much television and tried my best in everything I did. You have not bought yourself Billy Joel tickets or a new pair of running sneakers so that you could buy 14-year-old me Taylor Swift tickets or 18-year-old me Nike Free Runs. You have not protected me from my mistakes so that I could learn some lessons for myself—although I wish someone had told me straight-across bangs are not as cute on a sixth-grader as they are on a 3-year-old.
And, best of all, you have not, as you claim, forced preferences for any sports team on me. (For reference, readers, note the baby pictures in which I am wearing a New York Yankees onesie, a photo of myself at Yankee Stadium before I was old enough to pronounce the word "Steinbrenner” and the fact that our family's copy of the 2003 World Series has gone mysteriously unwatched.) Surely, I made the $1 bet with one of the Mets fans in my fourth grade class over the Subway Series out of my pure, unaffected, self-established love for the most hated team in baseball.
I'll probably never know just how much you have not done for me over the years because, by their nature, these inactions are practically immeasurable. I can only tell that the sum of all your actions and inactions has produced a daughter who is happy and healthy and who loves the New York Yankees.
So, Dad, I hope this letter expresses my gratitude for you better than did my notes on Father's Day cards of years past—although, in the future, I will probably still fill out cards two minutes before you open them. Sorry.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. Celebrate with a plate of food, a beer and a comfy recliner—or, as you might define it, your own satyagraha.
Mary Ziemba is a Trinity freshman. This is her final column in a biweekly series during the summer.