Friday, June 16, 2017

Advice You Won’t Find In A Book This Father’s Day

There are many books on fatherhood, though far fewer than on motherhood. And there are many, many books on parenting, from the classics to the newest installments.  The biggest book I ever promoted on the subject, Scream-Free Parenting by Hal Runkel, should be read by everyone raising a child.  But there’s no secret sauce to any single book on being a dad.

Being a father is something that comes from personal experience.  How does your wife parent?  What kind of kid do you have?  How old were you when you became a dad?  How many resources – parents, friends, nanny, money – do you have?  All of these factor in to what kind of dad you’ll be.  But probably the biggest indicator of what type of dad you’ll be comes from your perception of what your own dad was like when he raised you.

As this Father’s Day approaches – and the one-year anniversary of when my dad passed away (June 2nd) – I want to reflect on who he was.  After all, he helped form the person I’ve become and the dad that I am to my two children, ages 12 and 9. With this salute to my father, I hope you pick up a few tips on how to be a dad and live your life.

My fondest memories come from our experiences with baseball. From ages 10-15. I played six years of Little League.  My father either managed or coached me on all of these teams.  We won a championship in our first season and then went on to lose more games than we won, but it was a lot of fun.

He used to take in some of my suggestions about where to bat or play kids in the field.  He didn’t drive, so we ended up lugging the equipment bags about a mile and a half, from an apartment building to Marine Park in Brooklyn.  He was a stickler for getting to the games way in advance.  Sometimes for a 9:00 am game we were out of the house by 7 or so.  I still had sleep in in my eyes but he was raring to go.  He loved the competition as much as a kid.  He also liked teaching the kids.

As a boy growing up in 1940s and 1950s Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he played every kind of ballgame possible, often with his twin brother, Burt.  He told me they played punchball, stickball, and any game that called upon a Spalding ball.  They didn’t play organized sports on well-manicured suburban fields.  They lived on the streets, playing even as the sun set during hot summers.  Their camp was whatever they and kids from the neighborhood determined would entertain them.

When he wasn’t playing ball he was listening to Brooklyn Dodger games on the radio.  He and his brother loved Gil Hodges and Duke Snider.  His heart was broken when the team moved for greater riches in L.A. but five years later when the Mets were born in 1962 he became a dedicated fan and raised my sister and me to worship the lovable losers.

My dad and I went on to coach baseball teams for several seasons once I aged out as a player.  When I played for Baruch College my freshman year I would join my dad, where possible, to coach 11- and 12 year-old-boys who loved baseball.

One day my dad got thrown out of the game for arguing with the umpire.  My dad would never argue with anyone over anything but on the baseball field he would voice his views and wear his heart on his sleeve.  That same game, after I took over as manager, I, too, got thrown out for arguing.  It was my proudest moment.

My dad had sympathy for umpires. He tried umpiring for a few seasons. He was terrible at it, but he tried his best.  One game he sounded unsure of the call and blurted out:  “He’s out, right?”  The worst thing you can do is come off as insecure as an umpire.  The team his ruling came against stormed off the field, shocked at how wrong they thought the call was.  The manager of that team was supposed to drive us home (I was playing in the game).  Needless to say, his anger over the call overflowed and he left us stranded at the field.

Once I went off to college, transferring to Albany State, he formed his own non-profit youth baseball program. 

He funded, with a $500 grant from his employer, Merrill Lynch, a program that lasted several seasons.  He fielded two teams of kids who came from poor homes.  He didn’t charge a fee and supplied uniforms, equipment and instruction.  Most of the time the teams played each other but I think they may have played games against other leagues, too.

As much as he loved baseball, he adored music from the golden era of the 1950’s.  In fact, he used to sing songs like “You cheated, you lied, you said that you loved me” when he’d coach or if he joined me in some schoolyard stickball games against other kids and their dads.

He worked with the Police Benevolent Association to place a patch on the uniform sleeves of his players, to honor a slain police officer, Ed Byrne.  Builders Baseball was his own league and he was proud to have started it, but he realized it was too much for one person to keep up.

My dad was a friend growing up.  He spent endless hours talking to me, sharing views on politics, philosophy and ordinary life.  He was active in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War.  He even formed a group called WPA-World Peace Association.  He wanted for nothing more than for his children to grow up in a world without war.  He never thought violence solved anything and always taught us not to fight.  He didn’t believe in corporal punishment either.

His conversations on our many walks spurred my curiosities.  He allowed me to question everything.  I adopted his views on peace and about everyone’s role in making the world a better place.  He would rarely speak up for himself but he tirelessly advocated for others.  He was a big proponent of civil rights and social justice.  He marched against the war and for equal rights.  He later would protest new wars in the Middle East, championed gay rights, and stood up to protect the mentally ill.  He wrote countless letters to Congress, the president, and had his fair share published in the New York Daily News and other papers.  He even ran for State Assembly in New York as an independent while in his early 70’s.  I think he got nine votes but it didn’t matter.  He was speaking out for the disenfranchised and gave voice to the matters of importance.

He was a loving, family-centric, caring father.  He taught me to use my words, not my fists.  He encouraged me to become an avid writer and I ended up taking up his goal of becoming a writer.

He was a conscientious worker especially in his 30 years at what was then the nation's leading stock brokerage.  He rarely took a sick day, and if he did it was because he was actually sick.  Even during an MTA strike that stopped mass transportation. he found a way to get in.  He walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and got to work on foot.

Never short on doling out hugs or telling us he loved us, he was happy if his family was happy.

One of my proudest moments of him was when he decided to go back to college, more than 50 years after he had left with two years under his belt.  He got a job to support his family back then.  But when, in his mid – 70s, he started taking courses at a community college and later at Brooklyn College, he was thriving. He loved to learn and he really wanted to get a diploma.

He had a good sense of humor, often a self-deprecating one.  He’d laugh so hard at times that it was infectious.  He wasn’t a real joke-teller, but he enjoyed a good sarcastic comment.  Even if he was the punchline to his own joke, he enjoyed a good laugh.

Loyalty was never an issue for him.  He was married for 54 years.  He worked at one place for three decades. He lived in the same apartment for almost 50 years.  He was a member of a lodge, Knights of Pythias, for over a half-century.  He lived his entire life in Brooklyn.

A person’s worth is measured in moments -- and in memories – and their legacy from their words and deeds. 

He always told me as a kid that I’d become a great parent.  I swore to him I’d repay him by raising my kids right.  I I hope I am honoring him this way. 

There’s no proper way to conclude a life or the discussion of one’s existence.  The values he installed in others are his epitaph.  His love to me and others are his legacy.  Our memories of him are his gift.

The circle of life now comes as I raise my children.  Only now do I understand who my father was as I become a dad to my children.  I hope to repay his patience, support, and kindness in the way I bring my kids up.

He used to be early to everything.  He would sometimes, show up an hour ahead of schedule.  He used to say that on-time is late.  Well, Dad, your passing came too early and it’s the one time I wish you were late.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the men who do their best to raise the next generation.  We can all learn something from Allan Feinblum. I know I did.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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