Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad, 101 Stories of Gratitude, Love and Good Times (Book Review)

thanks_dad_cover01I picked this book up a few days shy of Father’s Day last year. Fresh off the printing press, it was something I just could not resist.

Two simple words: “Thanks Dad” – they capture the essence of a child’s appreciation of his dad’s devotion and willingness to spend time together, no matter the season in life.

If you borrow this from the library, you will be rewarded with 101 stories about fathers, all inspiring in their own way. Categorised under nine themes, the stories will provide ideas on why children are thankful for you.

I would like to highlight some of the themes and stories.

• Theme: How Dads Say “I Love You”

Bryan Gill kicks off with My Father’s Approval. Recounting his student days as an American Football player, Gill writes about how badly he wanted to make his dad proud of his achievements on the field:

Playing in the championship game…was something my dad did as a senior in high school. Hoping to make it that far was a dream of mine. I wanted to do something my dad had done but better. (p2)

Gill did make it to the championship, but stumbled at a crucial point in the game. Feeling humiliated, he wondered how his dad would respond. And this is what he experienced:

He (Gill’s dad) extended his muscular arm, raised his thumb in a thumbs-up gesture, and said, “I love you, son.” (p3)

…He loves me? Even though I screwed up? Even though I blew it? Even though the weight of the game rested on my shoulders and I messed up? He loves me? That’s exactly right. He loves me! (p3-4)

I didn’t have a father whose love was contingent on my successes or failures. I had a father who loved me because I am his child and he is my dad. (p4)

• Theme: Lessons for Life

Okay, Fine, My Father was Right –these may sound like words uttered reluctantly by a son who prefers to not admit that his dad had been wiser about certain matters. But, it is really the title of the story by John Lavitt who is far from begrudging when he writes it. Rather, there is a sense of resolution and thankfulness in his words.

Perhaps the most contentious issue between Lavitt and his dad had been about work. Dad was a prototypical example of the American dream, a self-made man who achieved success through hard work. In contrast, Lavitt, “…constantly tried to find a short cut to the big time.”

Eventually, with all the partying and unrealistic expectations in life, things hit rock bottom for Lavitt. Not only did his marriage break down, he also lost his house and ended up in a drug rehabilitation facility. But his father never gave up on him and was supportive in his efforts to stay sober and become gainfully employed. Therefore Lavitt ends his story with:

I have such gratitude that my father has stuck by my side and believed in me even when I was unable to believe in myself. Learning from his example, I have finally embraced the challenges of being an adult. Without my father’s consistent love and support, this might never have been possible. (p44-45)

• Theme: Dad to the Rescue

Shot in the head as an innocent bystander in an armed robbery, Michael Jordan Segal’s road to recovery was an ordeal he was able to pull though only because of his father’s refusal to accept the doctors’ prognosis.

Seagal writes in A Father’s Persistence that few believed that he would ever return to college. But that was exactly what Seagal did almost a year and a half after the shooting. And, he attributes part of the miracle to his father’s determination to help him learn to speak, spell and count all over again.

I could not have made this recovery without my father. He always encouraged me to look for the positive, even when there was very little to feel positive about. He held me up mentally and physically, pushing me as hard he could, believing that I would have my life back. (p81)

Four years after returning to school, Seagal graduated at the top of his class with honours.

• Theme: Through Thick and Thin

In The Track Meet, Fracia Heter writes about one of the most memorable days of her life. The story is particularly poignant because the track meet took place on the day her dad was to receive news on whether or not he would be laid off from work.

I saw my dad as I was getting ready for my first event. He waved at me with a big smile on his face. When I saw how happy he was, I figured out he must not have lost his job after all. The boss must have given him a raise instead! I heard him cheering me on as I ran. I didn’t win the race, but I tried my best.

When I finished the event, I ran over to him and asked him what happened at his meeting. He told me he had been laid off. I was shocked. He looked so happy and he was in high spirits. I couldn’t understand why he was smiling. He told me not to worry about it and to enjoy the track meet. (p156)

A chubby child who was not very athletic, Heter says that her dad smiled at her and cheered her on as she “continued to run, jump and lose” throughout the day.

Reading the story made me reflect on the fact that some days would be tougher than others. In fact, some days the loss we experience can be very painful. Whether it is losing a race or losing a job, if we just hold on firmly to the important things in life, we can pull through.

Some people find books like this too sentimental. But I beg to differ. To me, every page is worth reading for it is about everyday people and their experiences with their everyday dads. Nonetheless, there is nothing average at all about their relationships for these stories are real. Read on.

References:

1. Canfield, J, et al. [compiled by], (2010). Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad : 101 stories of gratitude, love, and good times, Cos Cob, CT


About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads


Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad, 101 Stories of Gratitude, Love and Good Times is available at Singapore’s public libraries.


First published on 14-06-2011.



Categories: Recommended Reads

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