I originally published this tribute to my father as a newspaper column in 2013
I wrote this Father’s Day column in May, as I knew I’d be vacationing in Greece in the early part of June and might write in my journal but certainly not write a column. Because my father was the son of Greek immigrants, I thought of him often as I planned our trip. He never visited Greece, and I’m not all that sure he wanted to, but he did instill in me an insatiable appetite for most things Greek.
And no, I’m not just talking about Greek food, though my love of Greek cuisine is apparent even in my day-to-day meals. My husband occasionally moans that a plain slice of tomato would do him just fine, and requests that I cease sprinkling feta cheese and/or fresh basil on everything.
Even beyond the food, though, I’ve always enjoyed Greek mythology and history. I recall checking out my first book of mythology from the P.S. 162 library in NYC. I read every book on Greek mythology that grammar school library offered and then moved on to Roman and Norse mythology. Imagine me shifting from Nancy Drew to Anne of Green Gables to mythology and back on a regular basis.
From mythology, I progressed to ancient Greek history in the form of stories about Alexander the Great and others. By the time I was in high school, I was devouring historical fiction about Greece, Rome, and England.
Once I reached my teens, Daddy and I often shared books. He was well read on a wide range of topics, and he delighted in discussing mythology and history and could readily explain how history had influenced the events of the twentieth century.
For my first wedding, Daddy was heavily involved in planning the food and entertainment. He made most of the food for the reception, and he hired a Greek band complete with a bouzouki player. I was married in a Baptist church, but the reception definitely had Greek flair. We have photos of my father dancing—think Zorba the Greek—the one and only time I remember seeing him dance.
I asked my younger sisters if they had enjoyed Greek mythology and was surprised to discover that neither of them shares my fascination with our Greek heritage. Sadly, Daddy had passed away by the time my sisters married, and I’m pretty sure that our being Greek never entered into their wedding planning. Though Greek pastries were served at my youngest sister’s wedding reception, that was because she actually married a Greek and his family provided the desserts.
None of us ever learned to speak Greek, but I can still hear my father, grandfather, and aunt conversing in Greek. I picked up a Greek phrase book so that I could at least say please, thank you, good morning, and good evening during my trip. How I wish my father were here today to teach me instead.
It’s impossible for me to imagine my father in his 80s as he would be today. In my mind, he will forever be the man he was 30 years ago, with a full head of dark hair, big brown eyes, olive complexion, and a dimple in his chin.