We’ve always been a family of Francophiles. Mom took lessons in her early 30s and shortly thereafter went on a culinary exchange program to France where she stayed with a lovely couple, Serge and Betty, who offered to host her. Twenty years on, they are the kind of friends who have become family. With dear friends who spoke little English, Mom and Dad ponied up for private French lessons for Sharon and me and we carried on with it in high school. In our family, it’s just dad who never really learned. He gets by when we’re in France or when Serge and Betty visit us; like most he understands infinitely more than he can speak, but I know it has always frustrated him.
But about two months ago, dad decided he wanted to learn French. He went to the library, checked out Pimsleur’s for Beginners and downloaded it to his i-pod. For me, that’s about as far as I would have gone. In fact, I remember Andy and I checked out French tapes about a year ago and made it about half way through the first tape before forgetting our commitment to improve our French. Not dad. Every morning he goes for a walk and listens to his French lessons. When he gets back he puts on the coffee, does things around the kitchen and I can hear him practicing the words out loud. He listens to the tapes over and over gain. He doesn’t move on to the next until he’s got that lesson down pat. Dad inserts French words or phrases into conversation ici est la bas (here and there) and I can say that he is now teaching me things I don’t know.
So for Father’s Day this year, I decided we should have a French-themed party for dad. To celebrate, not only his commitment to learning French and his love of France, but also to celebrate what I believe these French lessons reveal about his character. It may just seem like he’s learning to speak French, but to me, this shows so much more: commitment, focus, dedication, diligence. It shows that he’s a hard worker and that he doesn’t give up or abandon the things he commits to do in life. And these qualities are evident in every area of his life, both personal and professional.
I think I got a little of that spirit from my dad, but I also have a little ADD, so it doesn’t manifest in exactly the same way (I could never finish the New York Times Sunday Crossword like he does, even if I could eventually come to the answers.) But I feel so fortunate that Sharon and I have him as a role model in our lives. At 53 years old – dad continues to push himself to bigger and better things, to uncharted territory with the type of commitment most can only aspire to. He has our respect, our love and our admiration.