Matley Harelik (copy)

For the author’s Russian immigrant grandparents, Haskell and Matley Harelik, Father’s Day centered on a big Sunday meal at the family home in Hamilton.

Father’s Day has changed considerably for me over the years. As with so many others, my father and grandfathers are no longer with us. Yet I remember well the many Dad’s days as a kid when celebrations centered on the older generation.

My mom’s dad passed away shortly before I was born so I didn’t get to know him. But my paternal grandfather was in my life till I was almost 40 (and he was almost 100) and I had the blessing of getting to know “Popo” very well. Being from the “old country,” Mother Russia, Pop never barbecued outside or was very knowledgeable about sports. Father’s Day for him centered on a big Sunday meal prepared in the family home in Hamilton by my grandmother and her daughters in law. But the celebrations with my six cousins and twin brother were raucous and joyful and punctuated by my grandmother’s culinary specialties of homemade bagels, baked cheese and Russian cold-water dill pickles.

Along with her honey-glazed chicken prepared in an old gas oven followed by strawberries and hand-whipped cream, we ate till more than full while laughing every time someone yelled “Harelik” and everyone turned around at the same time. Good memories, all.

Celebrations for my dad were a little different as Dad almost always did the main cooking of grilled barbecue chicken with his special homemade barbecue sauce along with Mom’s side dishes of potato salad, always a green vegetable and a salad. Mom cooked along the “food group” rules — no double starch and always a full salad of EVERYTHING that belonged in a salad. There were no short cuts for Mom. As their grandchildren came along, Mom and Dad altered the offerings so everyone had a little something that they loved.

The pictures from those years show radiant, shining faces with love and smiles in every direction. Memories of those times leave a wistful grin on my face.

As my own children began to grow older, my father’s tradition of cooking the meal passed to me with barbecued chicken and Dad’s special sauce being the order of the day. I always looked forward to the Dad’s Day cards because I could always count on a serendipitous array of funny and not-so-heart-touching offerings. There is something special in what young children think about and express on special occasions. As our children become adults, move away and have children of their own, memories of past days become more emotional but are cherished nevertheless.

Time waits for no one and the days fly. As old age begins to dawn, Dad’s Day becomes more of a day of thought. We visit parents’ and grandparents’ resting places and realize that today’s busy families have many more demands on their time than was evident in days gone by; Father’s Day is not so much a day of busy celebrations as one of thoughtful remembrance of past years. That is not to say the day is somber because with those marvelous memories come reminders of the blessings we enjoy — close families, respected and loved dads and granddads and rich, wonderful thoughts and pictures of life’s milestones and celebrations.

Things do change as time passes . Celebrations change as well. But whether we celebrate as a child or grandchild or as a father or grandfather, we should always celebrate life in some fashion. We might delight in our own good fortune or the good fortune of the countless incredible dads and granddads we know. Whether they are teachers, first responders, military men, artists, writers or in any of hundreds of other careers, good men and good leaders light the way for those generations who follow.

May our memories and our celebrations for Father’s Day and all days carry on!

Harry Harelik, a native Wacoan whose family long ago ran Harlik’s Fine Clothes downtown, is president and vice president of the Waco Symphony Orchestra.