Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Father's Day

For years as a child, on Father's Day, I would give my dad a card, sometimes with a small gift and sometimes not. As I got older, it went from a card to a call...until 2006. That was the year my dad died. There were no more cards and no more calls.

When I too became a father, the same routine was repeated. My children gave me cards or little gifts on this special day.

I often think of my dad, Donald Raymond Kerik, Sr. His wisdom, humor, attitude, and his humility have stuck with me,along with all of the things he taught me about life, both big and small. I am in awe of his strength, his courage. It was something I never realized until the end. Throughout his life and mine, I never saw it, or witnessed it, or felt it. He was mild mannered, peaceful, and most often a passive man, until the day we sat in a room with two doctors who told him that the end was near.

He had no fear, he didn't flinch, and he sat there as stoic as one could be in the face of death, in complete control.

He wasn't going to take chemo. "I hear it makes you sick," he said. He didn't want pain killers. "I've never done drugs, and I'm not going to start now."

When he asked how long he would live, the doctor replied, "Without treatment, months... maybe three or four."

With my brother and me in shock, my mother in hysteria, and the doctors a bit stunned, Dad thanked them for their time, stood up and said, "I'm not sure what I intend to do, so I'll discuss it with my wife and sons, and I'll get back to you tomorrow. Now let's get some lunch," and off we went.

I learned more about him on that one day than perhaps any other. He died six months later.

This coming Father's Day will my third away from my own children, and as difficult as this time has been for all of us, it has given me another way to look at Father's Day, and what it means to me.

I've realized it has nothing to do with cards, gifts or calls.

To me, Father's Day is the first time you hear your child say "Daddy." It's their smile in the morning, a kiss on the cheek, the soft touch of their hands. It's running your hands through their hair when they're sleeping and the way they smell after their evening bath. It's the words, "I love you," before bed, and butterflies and Eskimos. It's movies on Saturdays, pancakes on Sundays, and outrageous ice creams at Friendly's. It's watching your oldest succeed and your youngest excel. It's teaching them things that you never knew and giving them more than you ever had. It's your daughter with your freckles, eyes, and attitude, and your son with the same birthmark on his back that you have on yours. It's the joy that comes from being a father, and the heart full of love that you cannot explain.

For me, Father's Day is every day, all year long. Missing the last three years with my children has done nothing more than make me understand that.

I miss my father. He was a good man.

As for my children, Happy Father's Day! You've given me the greatest gift of all.

You can follow Mr. Kerik at

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