I posted this for father's day four years ago, but now, while traveling in Greece with daughter Eleni, her husband Emilio and our two beautiful grandchildren--Amalia 3 1/2 and Nicolas, only 11 weeks old, my husband Nick Gage has proved himself a super Papou (grandfather.) Although he still doesn't change diapers. But he's great at telling stories to Amalia until she falls asleep.
Nick & Christos 1972
When our three children were born in the 1970’s, my husband Nick was not the kind of dad who'd change diapers, take a kid to the park or coach them in sports. But as these photos suggest, he was always an important presence in their lives, ready to offer support, advice and unconditional love when they needed it.
Nick & Eleni circa 1976
This past week, President Obama launched the “Year of Strong Families” to do something about father absence, which he experienced growing up without a father. Nick experienced it too, because, as he wrote in “A Place for Us”, he never knew his father, a short-order cook in Worcester, MA, until he and his sisters arrived in the U.S. as refugees in 1949 after their mother was executed during the Greek civil war. Nick was nine years old. His father, Christos, was 58.
Nick & Marina, circa 1979
My father, Robert O. Paulson, was born in 1906 and died in 1986. Because my parents lived far away, he was not a real presence in our children’s lives, but when we visited California in 1973 I took these photos of him showing our son, Christos, his first view of the ocean, and reading to him at bedtime.
I only met my paternal grandfather, Par Paulson, once. He was stern and completely deaf and the only way to communicate with him was by writing on a blackboard in chalk. But my step-grandfather, John Erickson, my grandmother’s second husband, had a special relationship with me during the years I lived near their small town of Monticello, Minnesota.
I still have a small garnet ring that once belonged to his mother. I remember vividly how he taught me to shoot his rifle across the wide Mississippi river, and in the spring, when it was time to get new baby chicks for the chicken yard, he would take me down to the hatchery, pull open drawers of chirping chicks and let me pick out the ones I liked.
Ida & John Erickson circa1952
In the current "People" magazine President Obama wrote, “I grew up without a father around. I have certain memories of him taking me to my first jazz concert and giving me my first basketball as a Christmas present, But he left when I was two years old.”
As he knows, even a one-time memory—choosing chicks at a hatchery, showing a grandson the ocean, reading a bedtime story or unwrapping a first basketball can be a gift that a child will cherish for a lifetime.