Greek-American Stories: Fathers

The annual holiday of Fathers Day is celebrated on June 19. It was started by Sonora Smart Dodd in Washington State on June 19, 1910. It became an official holiday when Pres. Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

In the dictionary-thesaurus, it states: ‘Father’, male parent. Important figure in early history. Below it, ‘Fatherly’: protective and affectionate. In other words a father is one who cares, nurtures, protects, and holds an honest affection for those under his care.

George Washington was called the ‘Father of our country’. But, he owned slaves and when one woman had escaped, he formed a posse, found her, and returned her to the hard labor on his vast property. There are all kinds of fathers, like the religious fathers to whom we must pay our respects – as such, he is expected to serve us in his capacity, not BE served.

When all that information is taken into consideration, let us consider another ‘Father’ in history. Hippocrates is called the ‘Father of Medicine’. He is considered a most outstanding figure because he truly cared about his patients. His beliefs are still exceptional in today’s world.

Born in Cos in 460 BC, he died in 375 BC in Larissa, Thessaly where he taught wisely in a time when illness was considered the punishment of the gods or when people attributed serious maladies to superstition beliefs. (Evil Eye, curses, etc.). He taught: ‘First, do no harm.’ In this he meant, in addition to instructing physicians, that living properly, compassionately, and kindly will keep our heart and other physical functions healthy. And, he said, ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. His advice, ‘Nature, itself, is the best medicine’, was another very profound observation. Also, ‘eating is not the final answer, he must also, exercise, Walking is the best exercise.’ All his teachings have a familiar ring in today’s natural healing movements. But, mainly, he cared deeply for the ill and the healthy. He, also, believed that family history and environment was of great importance to an individual. “Genetics,” he wrote, “has immediate reflection on the generation of the future.” Today, thousands of years since, doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, a true testimony of his worthiness. How very apt it is to refer to him as a ‘Father’ to us all.

A father should be a son’s first hero and a daughter’s first love, and he should love his children unconditionally. It is sad when a daughter or son can say nothing positive about their father. But, it does occur. In the end he who had erred in his role as father will, in later life, live to regret his actions. The saying, “if you give love you will get love,’ has a lot of truth in it.

I was very fortunate to have had a father who was strong and protective. Although he only attended second year high school before he immigrated to America, he had a vast knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Greek history that he passed down to me. It served to enlighten and encourage me to read.

His favorite ancient hero was Archimedes. He’d describe one scene that Archimedes had experienced: his head lowered, his thoughts deeply concentrating on something in the imaginary earth, he complained when an arrogant Roman soldier stepped over his calculations. Archimedes raised his head, objecting, saying, “don’t disrupt my calculations!” Whereupon that soldier, insulted that a mere prisoner dared to criticize his foot work, took his sword and thrust it into Archimedes’ body. How stunned I was at that piece of history. But, it lit a light that has never dimmed. I wanted to read more on that poor victim of brutality and others my father introduced me to, facts I had never learned in school: Alexander, the Great, his horse, boukefala, the Trojan War and so much more. But, mainly, he lived his beliefs. He made me promise to never drink, never smoke, and never play cards. I asked, surprised, “Papa! Why not cards?” He turned serious. Recalling some of his friends having serious arguments over a game of cards, he told me, “because you make enemies!”

He loved telling me stories about his life in the island of his birth, Simi, in the Dodecanese island group, like how in high school he’d created a caricature of his teacher. The teacher snatched and studied it. His annoyance changed to a wide smile as he told him, “you’ll get a demerit for not paying attention, but, a good mark in art.”



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