My dad is 82 years old. So with Father’s Day approaching, I decided to take a trip back to my childhood and contemplate this man and his influence on me. What I discovered was not what I expected but an insight that I have come to regard as possibly his greatest legacy.
It is a legacy that I admire from the sidelines. And one that I am impressed by far beyond these words.
My dad, Don Zirkel, has had a memorable life. He worked for 30+ years as a columnist and editor of a Catholic paper, as an ordained Deacon, and as the information officer of the NY Division of Human Rights. He has been an advocate for, as he would say, "the least and the lonely" all his life.
He and my mom raised 9 children, have 26 grandchildren and 3 great grandkids. True to the era in which he raised us, he was more of a traditional dad. The one we were threatened with when we were giving my mother a hard time.
He was hands-on - but probably as a sign of the times, it was more with my 5 brothers than us girls. While he showed up to just about every game my brothers played (and they played many sports over the years), I have only a few vivid memories of being especially noticed by my dad growing up. For my 13th birthday, while in Israel on an assignment, he sent me a Bas Mitzvah card that I still have. For my 18th birthday, he met me in the city (that's New York City) and we saw the play Annie together.
And while some might harbor resentment for this amount of one-on-one time, I don't. Between the gender divide and having 8 siblings, I didn't really expect it.
Perhaps he showed it best with his financially creative ways of providing us with awesome family experiences, like when he bought 5 sets of buy-one-get-one-free half gallons of ice cream and we each got one or when he finagled a week at an obscure mountain cabin that someone donated for our motley crew.
I feel extremely lucky to have had him at the helm of our family. He had, and still has, a rock solid moral compass. And I credit my upbringing for my own strong sense of right, wrong, personal responsibility, social justice, charity and gratitude.
So this Father's Day my tribute goes out to all of my brothers: Joe, Tom (RIP),
John, Paul and Tim; and to a man whom we should all be grateful for, my dad, Don Zirkel. Because we need good fathers. And we need these good fathers (who come by it through genetics or generosity) to show up and mentor the next generation of dads on how to do the same thing.
Thanks for all your caring Dad. And for passing on your legacy. I love you.
Annie Zirkel, LPC is a Parenting Consultant, Workshop Presenter, Author and grateful daughter based in Ann Arbor, Mi. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org