I was at the Yokosuka Navy Base post office mailing packages. The mail clerk asked me, “Priority or surface?”

“Fastest possible, please,” I said, “they are for Father’s Day.” He looked blankly at the three boxes, one going to San Diego, California, one to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and one to Sucre, Bolivia.

“I have three fathers,” I told him.

I give them each a kanji:

gen (origin)
My “origin” father gave me a great head of hair, clear skin, a strong set of limbs, a tendency to overproduce blood cholesterol, a strange combination of throwing lefty and batting righty, a quick and very loud laugh, a love of making lists and eating pickled herring with sour cream (really a love of eating in general), the ability to get super-enthusiastic about little things with the related ability to obsess excessively over little things, and a paper collecting habit that I fight against daily.

gaku (school, education)
My “schooling” father married my mother and set about educating me. He taught me to read deeply and encouraged me to enjoy his library of Evelyn Waugh, Henry Miller, and William Carlos Williams, not to mention Shakespeare, Faulkner, Lawrence, Milton, and Hemingway (about whom he would say, “Hemingway used to rewrite at least 40 times, you can stand to redo your homework a few times”). He gave me a lifelong love of matzoh brei, gefilte fish, and the phrase “Don’t hock my chinik.” When I was a child, he introduced me to his cool friends who wrote poetry, sang songs, and who were models for my future happiness.

ka (house, family)
I changed my maiden name to that of my “family” father. Many years ago, he went to Bolivia to study, married a Bolivian woman and brought her and her three children back to the States. One of those children joined the U.S. Navy, was stationed in Japan when I was there, courted me, and then became my husband. I often wonder and give thanks for the voyage that made such a huge difference in our lives. Family father sends news of unrest in Sucre and researches Bolivian history. He remembered when I said I liked the big silver spoons with the fish shape on the handles and sent them to me.

Thanks gentlemen. Happy Father’s Day!