I learned so many important things from my dad that I’m honored and grateful to share.
When my dad realized I had an ear for language as well as for music, he decided to go out of his way (with continued motivation and perseverance) to teach me French. In those days, I was always repeating accents: Spanish, French, Italian, and mimicking them, which cracked everyone up. That’s what gave my dad the idea to teach me a second language. My special ed schools were WAY too busy prioritizing their time and attention trying to teach everyone to communicate in English!
Every single Sunday, during our father/daughter brunches, Dad would teach me French. It was a very special way for him to share his love of French with me and for us to have a conversation that was easy-peasy and a lot of fun. I have such a wonderful memory, and I really loved making Dad proud of me when I remembered verbs and vocabulary words flawlessly. I also learned that it was okay to order chocolate chip pancakes and a blueberry muffin once in a blue moon.
My dad always told me I was very beautiful both inside and out. His compliments really helped me have faith and confidence in myself, especially around boys as I got older. When Dad realized that I loved musical theater, he took me on very special “dates.” During our father/daughter outings, Mom and my twin brother Matthew had their special time. I still remember perfectly: our first Broadway show together was “Annie,” when I was 8 years old. It was right after I sang “Tomorrow” at my school assembly.
At my b’nai mitzvah, Dad taught me how to slow dance, while my mom danced with my twin brother. I always loved hugging and being affectionate, so dancing was pretty easy-peasy for me. Dad also persuaded me to relax with a normal smile (instead of being so rigid and tense) and to look directly at the camera when he took our family pictures. Those family pictures really helped my mom tremendously when she was writing her memoir, My Picture Perfect Family: What Happens When One Twin Has Autism.
My dad has a fabulous sense of humor, and he taught me lots of silly expressions like “Oh no, Mr. Bill! It’s gonna hurt!” and “Mr. Sluggo’s gonna be mean to me.” He called me “the cat that swallowed the canary,” and nicknames like: “Goosetron from planet Goosetronix,” “Steam-a-leema from Cucamonga California,” a “very busy bee,” “giggle puss,” and so forth. Dad also introduced me to the Three Stooges which really amused me so much. To this day, he tells me to “Get busy, as Moe would say.”
My dad also went out of his way to support me and encourage me to become a better thinker. He invented a game called “What Doesn’t Belong.” At first, he started with simple multiple choice questions, like: What doesn’t belong? A. knife, B. spoon, C. plate, and D. fork. It wasn’t enough for me to just give the right answer. I had to explain the reason for my choice. Gradually, we moved on to harder questions, involving geography, animals and transportation. Dad challenged me to think outside the box by taking turns and having me ask him questions. We both learned that sometimes there was more than one “right” answer, if you can give a fabulous reason.
I always loved going swimming in both pools and the ocean. Dad gave me years of swimming lessons, every single Sunday after brunch. He wanted me to learn to keep myself safe and sound, so he and mom would not have to grow too much gray hair from worry about me. Also, it’s such a great form of exercise and helped me burn off the calories from those chocolate chip pancakes.
In recent years, my dad has taught me to write checks and balance a checkbook. He’s also been trying to teach me how to budget effectively, stay financially safe, and support my own financial well-being. That’s all still a work in progress, as we both love to say.