As I grow older, the less I see my father. I am increasingly keeping my nose to the grindstone, and my parents are finding more and more ways to enjoy retirement. Still, I think about my father more and more as just in the past month my paternal grandfather and two paternal great uncles have passed away.
As I reflect on my father and his impact, I want to thank him for being himself, helping me to become a confident woman, and leaning in and allowing our family to reach our wonderful potential.
Thank you for being your authentic self. You are adventurous, curious, and funny. You also can be annoyingly scientific, frustratingly stubborn, and alarmingly musical.
Your scientific precision is inspiring but incomprehensible to a little girl. On a raw winter morning, it was just the two of us in the kitchen making homemade cinnamon buns. You insisted on cutting the tender, spiced dough with a piece of floss (instead of using a knife) so as not to squish the dough. As you slowly sliced the dough with dental floss, I pleaded with you to make it quick so I could get my hands on a warm and gooey roll. After all that careful cutting, our family devoured the delectable treats in one sitting.
At holiday dinners, you insist on making homemade gravy and always forget how long it actually takes to make. Every year you scramble to cook down the juices from the bird to be ready in time, but I cannot imagine eating gravy from a can.
You left a lasting impression on me with your love of opera and musical theater. Every weekend while I was in grade school and high school I would wake up to the voice of Luciano Pavarotti or the soundtrack of Man of La Mancha blaring throughout the house. As a teenager, it was a rude awakening; now, it is music to my ears.
Thank you for helping me to develop into an independent and confident woman. While you were always there to support me while I was growing up, I am who I am more due to what you did not do for me than what you did do.
As I was learning vocabulary and spelling in grade school, I would approach your desk downstairs with a sweet smile and ask if you could help me spell a word or tell me the meaning of a word. Your answer was always, “Look it up in the dictionary.” At the time, I could not for the life of me understand how I could look up a word in the dictionary if I did not know how to spell it. My frustration and determination helped me to ultimately hunt that word down.
Thank you for helping to shape the genuine, strong family that we are. Your unwavering support for Mom to enter academia and the high ranks of the federal government at a time when most women her age were having children is special. You were gaining increasing responsibility as a research scientist and then as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry. Yet, you still gave Mom the opportunity to lean in. In doing so, you were leaning in, as well.
Leaning in has made you and Mom a strong team, which has given me a solid foundation on which to grow. Your teamwork is what drives me to be an advocate for women professionals and encourage men to join in the discussion and be supportive. I see what a support system can accomplish for a woman in a family. Channeling your unique exactness, persistence, and appreciation of humanity, I strive to model and establish supportive environments in corporations and the larger society.
Thank you for everything, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!