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Gomberg: How my father's teachings left me better off

Published June 19, 2017 11:52 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I saw an ad on Facebook last weekend for this collapsible water bottle. You can expand it for maximum capacity, and then it sort of twists into itself to become half its size when you're finished. I immediately thought of my dad, who loves compartments and containers, and especially those that can become smaller to fit in other compartments or containers. I was about to order him one in purple for Father's Day, but realized there's something else he might like more.

I was inspired on a recent blustery day by a childhood memory of a family camping trip with some of our best friends. We were at Bear Lake, where microburst storms would blow in nightly and wreak havoc. At the end of the trip, I was on scattered-garbage-clean-up duty when my pops asked me to also pick up the cigarette butts around the campfire.

My crafty-albeit-lazy self clarified that those weren't ours, so I didn't need to worry about them. He wasn't mad or even intense, so it's interesting to me that this moment has stuck with me all these years. He told me that he learned from his papa to always leave places better than he found them. He asked me to clean up any trash in our area whether it preceded us, blew in during our stay or was from us.

And I did. It felt good to picture the next campers arriving to a pristine site.

That idea of always having a positive impact on the places and people I visit has rattled around in my brain the last 25 years and has become a motivating ideology for me.

It makes me realize how my dad's influence in my world has been exactly that ­— always positive, from the shortest visits and texts to the whole of our shared experience. So, for this Father's Day, I want to remind my dad of a few of the many ways in which he has left me better off.

• First, thanks for giving me life, Dad. It's really an immeasurably significant improvement over not existing.

• I really appreciate the time and attention you paid to helping me learn how to jump my car battery and change a tire (and then providing my AAA membership so I never had to do either).

• You also taught me how to throw like a girl, which is to say I enjoyed playing catch in the front yard, especially during the years you helped coach my softball team. You made me proud of my arm and my ability to catch anything even remotely close. But really, whether throwing or learning or snowboarding or leading, you always reinforced the idea that I could be and do whatever I wanted. Thanks for providing an early respite from the silly notions that women are less capable.

• You, despite my bad attendance as a depressed teen, taught the constitutional law class at Ogden High School long enough for me have the chance to take it. It's from you that I learned the glorious messiness of making sure people's freedoms and rights are balanced so carefully.

• I appreciate you teaching me the glory of a sensible shoe — even when I was newly out and thought that I'd need to wear stilettos to prove I was still a lady.

• You pretty much wrote the book on modern hipsterism in the 1980s when you made chugging LaCroix cool and started using your own reusable grocery bags (sometimes even with a daring mustache).

• Thanks for having "Well, so who's the lucky lady?" be the first thing out of your mouth when you learned I wasn't straight and was crushing on a girl.

• And thanks most of all, papa, for being an example of loving, selfless parenthood. Your legacy is a continuation of your dad's, and one that I will do my darndest to carry on for little Harvey.

You continue to leave me better than you found me. To whatever degree I am an OK human being, I have you to partially credit. I love you, Dad.

Marina Gomberg's lifestyle columns appear on sltrib.com. She is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.






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