Ivan Reitman’s Daughter Catherine Reflects on Her First Father’s Day Without Him: ‘I’d Absorb Every Moment’

And at the risk of making the reader temporarily uncomfortable, acknowledge the thesis of this holiday: Dad, I love you. It is because of this, that I am reading this aloud right now. I will tap in. Thank you for not only giving me the ticket to life, but also showing me why it’s valuable. In the hopes that where ever is lucky enough to be my father’s new home, he can hear me. Happy Father’s Day. I will not avoid the truth of each moment. While I can’t look into his eyes, I can see them… feel them. And in doing so, will be that much closer to you.
The night before, he had told me — in his signature style of sincere but “got places to be” — that he was proud of me. My father died on Super Bowl Sunday. Today, four months later, we celebrate Father’s Day. He then went to sleep and never woke up.
I would stare into those things and find myself peeling open. The man could pull emotion from the blind with those eyes. His chest would puff out like a cartoon Mountie, taking in every word. I know he had this effect on my siblings too. This was a lesson that took me several years to learn. In Father’s Days past, I would stumble into the celebratory meal — buzzing from whatever life was serving me, and know that I had to tap into the truth of the meal if it were going to have any impact on my father. And the easiest trick to tapping into that moment? He had sympathy nukes sitting in his face. Nothing made my father prouder than when my siblings and I made speeches. My dad didn’t have standard eyeballs. I’d watch his eyes land on theirs and they’d instantly slow down, tap in and start vibrating at different frequencies. Looking into his eyes.
What he valued were moments of truth. And in that speech, he taps into the truth of the room. Hungry for the one person who can wow him with an anecdote of true authenticity. The truest irony being that my father didn’t particularly care about this holiday. This is best exemplified by his dinner party routine: He greets his guests, warm, but reserved. No conversation trumps the meal itself. His power. I’d watch people pause, collect themselves and see my father’s true magic. Something to put the guests at ease. Whether the moment calls for celebration or sympathy, he acknowledges the thesis of the evening — even if it makes people temporarily uncomfortable. And with that, the room discovers that they are somewhere important — experiencing something with meaning. If he is the host, he makes an opening speech. He actually eats. Connection. He radiated pride when he could steer a room to earnest waters. They can sit back with the knowledge that they are in good hands. He wants to be moved.
A few hours of praise and priority, before the wave of ordinary life crashes us back into our routine. I’ve spent the last seven years of my career writing about the sacrifices and journeys of working mothers. I owe my extraordinary father that much. An amusing gift. I’ve always thought the purpose of Father’s Day was to give dads a nice meal. Perhaps it’s time I take a moment to explore one man who shared this burden. But outside of a few hours of smiling, there must be a deeper meaning to why we celebrate the men who brought us into this world.
Catherine Reitman is a writer, showrunner, actor, producer and director best known as the creator and star of "Workin’ Moms," available globally on Netflix.” />
Ask one million questions that I was too narcissistic to ask before. All the while, worrying about whatever obstacle I had on the horizon that week. I would now happily burn my career to the ground to have a day by his side. (Cue Joni Mitchell’s “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”) Hug him until he said, “Enough already,” laughing, though clearly fed up. Treating this holiday like just another item on my to do list. I’d order us Chinese food and a couple of Diet Cokes and spend the afternoon floating happily in his company. I wouldn’t criticize his crappy diet, or waste time nagging him to drink more water. I’d absorb every moment. If I were able to be with him on this Father’s Day, I’d express my appreciation for him. Laugh with him. He didn’t die of dehydration, after all. Then again, if he were still here… I’d probably just be carrying on the way I always have. Last year at this time, I would have charged into brunch, hugged my dad, given a cheers and plowed through whatever meal we happen to be serving. I’d dance with him. Hell, I’d sit in a crocodile’s mouth to have five minutes with the guy.
Don’t squander it. After seeing such atrocities, his parents raised him with a keen understanding that every moment in life is a gift. This special skill set of his could be attributed to a few things: He may have simply been born with the ability to put his finger on the pulse of any moment. A superpower that he was blessed with. Regardless of its origin, my father not only supplied it, but required it from you as well in order to make a connection. His sharp sense of getting to the truth of each scene. Or maybe it was learned over the decades of storytelling he has mastered. Or perhaps it’s a byproduct of being the son of two Holocaust survivors.

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