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Jewish World Review June 13, 2003 / 13 Sivan, 5763

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

Father image | As we approach Father's Day, let's be real about it.

Everyone needs a father to be born, but not everyone can have a father while growing up.

Some fathers are too busy; others get divorced, disappear or die.

But almost everyone should have a father image - someone who lives up to what a father should be.

A father image is a role model - someone you want to be like. He fills you with the memories that never leave you when you grow up.

I had two father images. The first was Harold, who was in his 20s when I was 10 years old. I was a foster child and lived in his home with his mother.

He had dark, curly hair and always wore a beautiful suit and a shirt and tie. What made him my role model was that he knew my darkest secrets - even stuff my real father didn't know - and he told me things no other person would tell a little boy.

Harold dressed the store windows at Gertz Department Store in Jamaica, New York, and every time I went to visit him he gave me a quarter.

I wanted to be exactly like him. I even walked like him. He always called me "Kiddo," a name I call people I like to this day.

My friends had role models like Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Joe Lewis and other sports figures. I chose Harold, because he was a real person and he chose to be my mentor.

Harold, as you may have guessed, is now in heaven (where else would he be?), but I think about him a lot. And whenever I have a problem, I ask myself, "What would Harold do?"

That is the reason a father role model is so important to a boy or girl. It's a learning experience for everyone.

As I grew into my teens I had another father image - it was the Marine Corps. The entire Marine Corps became my father role model, whether I wanted it to or not.

I discovered this the first day of boot camp, when my drill instructor told me that the Marine Corps was now my only father (and also my only mother).

He told me I would remember the Marine Corps for the rest of my life. To prove his point he made me do 50 pushups, scrub the barracks floor with a toothbrush and yell out on the drill field, "The Marine Corps is my daddy!"

It was only after the Marines reduced me to Jell-O and then sculpted me into their own image that I realized what my DI told me was true. The Corps was my "father" and I could never forget it.

I guess the reason I am writing all this is that I think there should be a Father's Day when everyone honors the person who had a lifelong impact on them. I believe every child needs just one to change his life.

Happy Father's Day.

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