Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Daddy's Day

Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory
From Jo Floyd Lucas
I have a friend who was born in Poland, spent his formative years in the USSR (went to study ballet at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory at the age of 12), performed as a principal dancer, married a Panamanian ballerina, and after traversing a difficult and circuitous escape route from behind the Iron Curtain, ended up living in Indianapolis, IN, where today he is a professor of ballet at a university. He travels the globe teaching ballet and ‘setting pieces’ on ballet companies. He is fluent in five languages. He is a true citizen of the world.

And for the life of him, he cannot understand Father’s Day.

His musings delight me endlessly. I never grow tired of hearing his stories, fabulous stories about his life as a child in Poland, his life when it changed abruptly as he was selected as a child of promise in the ballet world and had to leave his family, his life at the most highly regarded school in the world, his life as a performer, his life when it changed magically as he met his “Rosie”, and his life when they decided to defect from the USSR.

He possesses the unconditional love of country that only first generation Americans can have. His oldest son is now a proud United States Marine Corps Lieutenant, with tours of Afghanistan and Iraq and a Purple Heart under his belt. Neither he nor his wife has ever uttered even a hint of a complaint about the United States. They are poster children for good citizenship.

But he just doesn’t get this Father’s Day stuff.

One day I was helping him to construct a libretto for a ballet he was choreographing. It was about this time of year, and we were in St. Louis, where he was setting the ballet on the company I worked for. His wife and three children were back in Indianapolis. The afternoon was filled with work, but as it often happens with this friend, it was also filled with conversations veering off onto tangent upon tangent. At one point, I realized that he would be staying through Sunday of that week, which was Father’s Day, and was concerned that he wouldn’t get to celebrate precious family time with them.

“Will you celebrate the following weekend?” I asked him.

“Celebrate?” he asked, puzzled. “Celebrate why?”

“Father’s Day,” I replied. “Don’t you mind missing Father’s Day?”

My friend looked at me with that look of eternal patience that all good teachers wear. A smile crept onto his face.

“Tell me,” he commanded good-naturedly. “What is this ‘Daddy’s Day’? Why do you celebrate?”

“So our fathers know they are appreciated?” I replied, half stating, half asking.

“No, no, no,” he said emphatically. “We know we are appreciated when our children do well. They get good grades. They work hard. They succeed. THAT is our appreciation,” he continued. “No fancy card can tell us that.”

“Oh,” I replied, understanding the difference in cultural perspective. “I’m glad you explained that to me."

I thought for a moment how interesting our various points of view can be regarding something as simple as the national holidays we celebrate. How different it would seem to me if there were no Father's Day, or Mother's Day, for that matter. No picnics, no barbeques, no family reunions. Very different.

At that thought, I looked at him and asked, "So...I guess you don’t celebrate Mother’s Day either, then?”

With that, my friend suddenly burst into surprised laughter.

“What?” he exclaimed. “Of course we do…we’re not stupid!”

Happy Daddy’s Day to all the fabulous dads out there…you are appreciated.



  1. Love it! What a wise man and great Daddy.

  2. You write beautifully and are truly gifted!

  3. Many thanks to both of you.

    You've been in my thoughts today, Vicki, and I know this must be a difficult day for your entire family.

    Scott's spirit lives on in Cori, John, David, and you, helping to guide his children on their course. You all have reason to be honored this day.

  4. Thanks for the chuckles, Jo! I love reading your posts if I were there listening in to the conversation. Pete worked with a guy from Russia, Sergei, and the feelings of ecstasy that he could pursue a career HE wanted without being chosen came to mind reading your piece. Sergei's father got 'a pass' to visit him while working at Mojave Airport, and was thrilled to just climb into some of the old WWII airplanes Pete and Sergei were working on....something he couldn't do just the previous week in his own country. The small freedoms we take for granted are so numerous when you look at them from another standpoint. The language was always something to overcome...for instance Sergei would say 'your on my way' instead of 'excuse me' if you were in his path. He didn't mean to be rude, he was just learning his way around our English language.
    What a wonderful story, and I would be like you listening to any stories of his past - how he overcame so much and was still able to share his gift with others.
    Vicki....thinking of you and your family today as well, and find ways to celebrate the good memories of our dads - my hope for everyone.

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  6. Thank you, Nancy. I have some funny stories about my friend's struggle with English idioms, but I would never criticize, since I'm fluent in all of ONE language (though I wouldn't starve to death if forced to speak French in France..."Un croissant et un café s'il vous plaît!"

    People in Europe think nothing of being bi, tri, or quadrilingual. I am humbled and a bit shamed by my (and most other Americans) limitation in that regard.

  7. Bill Cosby is so funny! I love this post. My parents were against mother's and father's day, not for the same reasons as your friend. They were old world, apparently.

    Very cool.

  8. Great post Jo. Your friend's comment about Mother's Day made me laugh out loud. As does Bill Cosby. Always.

  9. Well, I can only imagine how I slaughtered the French language when I visited France! I studied for six years, and still was like a kindergartener when I was there.

    I have other funny stories about my friend's attempts at the idioms of English, but I can't tell them in polite company! :-)

    Thanks for the kind words, Delana.


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