Father and Daughter* (RetroFlash) by
(303 Stories)

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My father was a complicated man. He had quite a temper, but he was also very generous. I have written about the time he threw a milk bottle at me**, about his vanquishing the witch of my nightmares***, and about his treating patients who couldn’t afford to pay****.

His cardinal rule: to the outside world we must always present a united front.

The one cardinal rule that he drilled into my sisters and me: While we might disagree with each other at home, and even argue bitterly at times, to the outside world we must always present a united front. And he always did, publicly supporting us even when he privately disagreed with us.

* Thanks to Paul Simon for the song title

** The Milk Bottle (June 2016)

*** Father and Daughter (June 2017) — about the witch and so much more. I urge you to read this detailed portrait of my father if you didn’t read it back then.

**** We Are the World (Dec. 2019)

RetroFlash / 100 words (excluding footnotes)

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Really a great RetroFlash about your father, who was obviously an imperfect man (ain’t we all?), and yet still so wise and wonderful. And a great use of footnotes to be able to stay within the RetroFlash rules and yet give us the opportunity to learn so much more about your father. (I may have to “borrow” that technique.)

    And, as usual, the perfect title. In fact, I didn’t know of that Paul Simon song before, but I’ve now read the lyrics and they’re beautiful, and just right for your story. (I only knew of “Mother and Child Reunion” — which doesn’t exactly fit for Father’s Day.)

  2. Suzy, you’ve captured much of your father in the few words of this RetroFlash. Now to go back and read the earlier stories!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    You’ve reminded us of ways, big and small, that your father influenced you and your whole family, Suzy. He does sound like a complicated man, but those group sing-a-longs in the car sure sound great. And the compassion he showed to his patients was worthy of emulating. Just not his temper!

  4. Marian says:

    Thanks for the links, Suzy. The stories present a detailed portrait that you summarize so well in the Flash. I hadn’t read the Milk Bottle story, which is terrific and so revealing.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Family pulling together to face the outside world is a lesson I’m sure you didn’t forget, and likely have carried into your adult life. It takes work to sort out complicated people who profoundly influence your life. Thanks for your writings.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Good use of RetroFlash to capture the essence of your father. We had a similar rule in our family about not airing dirty laundry and presenting a united front to the world.

  7. The term ‘united front’ applies to so many aspects of your life, Suzy, that I can’t help but understand how fine and deep an influence he had upon you.
    And I really, really want to know what you had done to prompt him to throw a milk bottle at you!

    • Suzy says:

      Well, if you “really, really want to know,” go back and re-read my story, which I have linked to here. I know you read it at the time (6 years ago), because you commented on it, and in fact you said “dramatic, from beginning to climax. You describe the event almost filmically, with a setting and dialog and action.”

  8. I fully subscribe to to the circle-the-wagons approach to family. My mom had the same sensibility: she was a native Italian, a Southern Italian, and it’s in the blood. But within the family? Note to self: read the collected Suzy works.

  9. Kathy Porter says:

    I read the story about The Milk Bottle and I can see that our fathers had some things in common. And it always helps when your father will support you in public, no matter how many private qualms he may have.

  10. Susan Bennet says:

    Every family has its secret(s) and tiffs. Sometimes in pique it is so tempting to air (publicly) a gripe, which most likely is born of jealousy in the first place. In the end the people on the receiving end are embarrassed to hear it. If you can’t be loyal to your family, who can you be loyal to?

    So, one of the great gems of advice from your father! Loved the flash.

  11. Dave Ventre says:

    Great stories, all of them! I can’t get the idea that “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” out of my head.

    I’m torn on the “united front” philosophy. It seems to divide life into factions, all us vs them, the war of all against all, which is a philosophy that I reject. It isn’t that way.

    Except when it is….

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