This is a day to reflect upon the ‘fathers’ in my life – both my own father and the father of my son. To my husband and the father of my wonderful son, I am grateful to him for being a wonderful man and I thank him for my son. To my own father, I am grateful for all he did for me.
He worked hard to put food on our table and a roof over our head. He had a quirky sense of humor and loved the television series ‘The Odd Couple” (he called them ‘Dva Bolvani’ – Russian for two oafs), “Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Untouchables” and the television belonged to him when these programs were airing.
He was a Professor of languages and taught Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey California; at home he spoke mainly Russian with the occasional smattering of English thrown in. He called my mamma ‘Kika’, an affectionate variation of her actual name Kira. It was not unusual for him to bring students home for dinner and often my mother had to scramble to feed an extra mouth or two on very short notice (that was OK, she was Russian too and Russians LOVE to feed people)
He was not a great cook himself – his repertoire consisting mainly of Kotleti (ground meat cutlets that were simply awful the way he made them) and Vegetable Borscht which was heavenly; he also made good Zakuski (small open-faced sandwiches and tidbits served with copious amounts of Vodka). He always had a bottle of Vodka in the freezer that he added a strip of lemon or orange peel or sometimes hot chili peppers to. He loved sourdough french bread and a trip to the grocery store necessitated two loaves – one for the drive home. He was a tea drinker and drank tea from a large thick glass mug far more often than coffee; he occasionally drank his tea ‘Gypsy’ style with a spoonful of strawberry jam instead of sugar.
He was a member of the Rosicrucian Order and loved ancient Egypt, an appreciation he instilled in me and I inherited most of his books on ancient art and mythology. When I was 12, he gave me the first book I ever read about ancient Egypt – “The Winged Pharaoh” about an Egyptian queen and priestess; a book perhaps far too advanced for my years but I loved it and it gave me the confidence to tackle other books ‘too advanced’ for my age such as “Quo Vadis” and “Don Quixote”.
He had been a musician in an earlier life in Europe and loved classical music and opera. He liked grandiose music and would listen to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Wagner and Madam Butterfly by Puccini was a particular favorite, he also liked movie soundtracks. He had a film projector and collected some of the old silent Laurel and Hardy, Ben Turpin and Buster Keaton films. He would sometimes invite guests over for a film fest during which he would play recordings of popular 1920’s songs. When I was 10 years old, he took me and my sister to see the Russian production of War and Peace – all 7 hours of it (shown in two parts, thank goodness)
He loved to garden though he was a poor judge of just how large that plant in the one-gallon container would ultimately grow; our garden was full of Roses, Cineraria, Gazanias and Fuchsias (that grew into veritable shrubs in the mild coastal climate. He also loved to plant fruit trees but we rarely got much fruit from them.
He was Russian Orthodox though not devout. We were raised Roman Catholic by mamma though we did attend both Christmas and Easter services at the Orthodox Church with him and he, in turn, attended these same services at the Catholic Church we regularly attended.
He was an excellent Chess player and played often with fellow professors from the Language school. He taught me to play but I never did get good enough to beat him. He was happy to introduce us ‘older’ kids to unusual cultural experiences and on one trip to San Fransisco to visit relatives, he ‘rescued’ my sister and I from going to look at the Bison herd in the park with the younger children and took us instead to explore Chinatown, giving us each several dollars to spend as we chose on exotic wonders (I bought a paper fan and lantern).
I wish he had lived long enough to see me grow up to complete adulthood, he died when I was 19 years old and though married and a new mother myself at that point, we were just poised on the point where our relationship would have evolved into that between two adults instead of father and child. I wish he was here to call and wish a Happy Father’s Day to, and to give him a hug.; I hope he can hear and feel my love wherever he is right now. In the meantime, I treasure the other ‘father’ in my life – the father of my son though the fatherly recollections here are my son’s responsibility.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL THE FATHERS OUT THERE!