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The perfect gift for a special dad

Writer Margaret Malloy’s father, Joseph Kane, who worked

Writer Margaret Malloy’s father, Joseph Kane, who worked on the first lunar module that landed men on the moon, received this “unique profile” showcase customized with personalized books and memorabilia from Grumman when he retired in 1976. Credit: Margaret Malloy

"A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way." -- Author unknown

On Father’s Day, many people try to find the perfect gift for their dad or father figures in their lives. Those of us who have lost fathers will think back to the memories of men who took up so much space in our hearts.

My father, Joseph Kane, was truly the leader of the band. He was extremely musical and sang like Eddie Arnold. Dad could pick up any instrument and play it; he had perfect pitch. He couldn’t read a note of music, playing everything by ear. He would sing my brother, sister and me to sleep most nights with a repertoire of cowboy songs. As we got older, my father would organize a jam session on Sunday nights. My sister played the flute, I played the violin, and my brother would bang on something that would mimic drums. It was one of my most precious childhood memories.

Dad worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard until its closing. Then, he procured a job with Grumman and worked on the first lunar module that landed men on the moon. We had joined a lot of post-World War II families and moved from Brooklyn to Levittown. In his spare time, my father would do income taxes for all my aunts and uncles. Although he had no formal training, he was a whiz at math so he helped us through tough homework assignments, and I can guarantee he never cheated on his taxes or anyone else’s.

On Sundays in the early ’60s, we would take a ride out to the "country" — Stony Brook, Islip, Middle Island -- to see horse farms. That was the one day we got to eat out. Dad dressed in a shirt and tie every Sunday even though he didn’t go to church. Whenever I smell Old Spice cologne, it brings me back to those Sundays.

My dad loved Halloween. I thought it was because he loved candy. As the years went by, however, and I watched while he handed out the goodies at my front door, it wasn’t the love of candy; it was the love of all children, especially his grandchildren. He spent time coloring with them, singing to them and just enjoying their innocence. He had few friends; his family was his world.

My father was never demonstrably affectionate. I don’t ever recall him telling me that he loved me, but he showed it. His love and caring came across so clearly when he sang to us each night and sat with us through some of our most difficult years. I feel lucky that he was there to walk me down the aisle and meet his grandchildren. He passed away on his own terms: at home, sitting in his recliner, a TV remote in his hand, and money in his pocket.

Although I was one of the lucky ones to grow up with my biological father, it is important to remember and pay tribute to all those stepfathers out there who "stepped" into the role and nurtured and loved their stepchildren. It takes a special kind of man to love someone else’s children. Often, they don’t get the recognition they deserve. There is no understating the influence stepdads have in their children’s lives. They are not a replacement for a biological father; most times they are an enhancement.

So, if you are still searching for that perfect gift for your dad, stepdad or any father figure in your life, I can tell you what it is. Tell him you love him again and again. He will never forget it. I wish I had told my dad that more often when I had the chance.

Reader Margaret Malloy lives in Middle Island.