My father was a fairly concrete guy. He didn’t give advice because he thought, “If you aren’t going to take it, why should I give it?” He also had a deliberate and cautious manner that belied his silly and off-beat approach to life. He marched to his own drummer and didn’t give a damn what others thought of him. He wore crazy clothes, had unexplainable habits and weird ideas about everything. However, I know that during his shorter-than-I-would-have-liked lifetime, he struggled with just “trying harder.” Whenever we found ourselves discussing things like resolutions or goals, his reply was simply that he was “going to try harder.” I knew him well enough to know that he had two basic struggles. He never believed himself to be an observant enough Jew, a monumentally important goal of his. Despite praying daily, observing the Sabbath and keeping many of the Jewish rituals, he never believed he did enough. Similarly, despite his best efforts, he believed that he did not provide well enough for his family. Regardless of the truth, he always promised himself to try harder. Hours before he died, his last bit of fatherly guidance was that I should “try to do the right thing.”
I think of him daily, even almost 15 years after he died, in the abstract and haphazard way we remember the loves of our lives. But, a few nights ago, I found myself wondering why I cannot stick to the things I promise myself I will do. I can’t seem to keep to the good habits that health and happiness dictate. I can’t seem to approach my parenting challenges in any consistent manner. I am trying, but I need to try harder. My goals are much less lofty than my dad’s were. I want to eat better. I want to dress better. I want to fold the clothes when they come out of the dryer. I want to prepare for work before I need to be at work. I want to wash my face before falling into my sleep-coma. I want my children to see my love for them reflected on my face…even when they are driving me crazy. I know that I just need to try harder, but I have not yet found my way.
So, I sit and I wonder what my dad’s advice would be – if only he could be here to refuse giving it to me!