The summer I turned nine, my parents sent me to camp for the first time. That first day, after filing off the bus in our gingham shorts and sleeveless shirts, we new campers huddled together, nervous, excited, waiting for the camp director to call our names and send us to our bunks. Half way through the list of names, the director called “Tiger Mark,” but no one responded. Eventually, all the names were called, but I didn’t hear my name. Maybe I had gotten on the wrong bus?
“Tiger Mark,” the director called again and smiled at me. Then I understood. I recognized my last name “Mark.” My Dad, ever the jokester, had filled in my name on the camp form as “Tiger.” It was his nickname for me, his way of reminding me, even hundreds of miles away at camp, to set my eye on my goal and never give up. I raised my hand and smiled big. “That’s me,” I said.
Not giving up was the third most important thing my Dad taught me. The second most important? Be straight and clear and true with others. His straightforward approach never caused us to doubt him or question his meaning. Once, for example, when we asked him what death meant, he told us it meant you stopped breathing. So last summer, when he stopped breathing, we knew what it meant. There is a time to not give up, but there’s also a time to let go, my Dad seemed to tell me as he took his last breath.
Despite these profound lessons, one lesson transcends them both. The third most important thing my Dad taught me: love. He loved his family first and best; we always knew it, and we know it still. For his lessons and for his love, I remember and honor my father this Father’s Day. He is my number one mensch.
Who is yours? Please share a short story, essay, or remembrance of your favorite mensch on this blog. To read more about my Dad, Julian Mark click here.
Best, Jane (Tiger Mark) Moritz