You marry your father?

They say that you sometimes subconsciously marry a man just like your father.

But my husband is warm and loving. He’s not anything like the father I had hiding behind a mustache and a newspaper. So this saying clearly doesn’t apply to me.

But maybe it does. There was a gentle and kind man in my home for a few weeks. I think he gave me more paternal love in three weeks than my father ever had. He is very much like my husband.

When I was 6 years old, my family volunteered through the synagogue to host an Israeli war veteran in our home for ten days. Zacharia Dagan came into our house with a funny name and only a few words of English. He gave me a huge hug when he met me and then he lifted me up onto his shoulders, where I stayed for the duration of his trip.

With Zachy and the rest of the group, I got taken to every family friendly attraction in Toronto. And he made me feel like he was excited that I was there with him. We went to the zoo, Canada’s Wonderland, bbq’s at parks, a waterpark. And…my parents were on their best behaviour. No fighting, no yelling, no freak outs – we had a guest in the house. It was amazing.

A year or two later, my family visited Israel. Zachy picked us up from the airport in a huge van that he had rented just for us and drove us to his house in a small town. His huge family was waiting for us with food and hugs. He had a beautiful garden with fruit trees and vegetables growing. His children were all so beautiful and kind. They even slept on their roof one night so that we could sleep in their rooms. They set up tables in their backyard and we ate amazing dinners there. It was a huge novelty for a young Canadian to see how the outdoors was really an extension of their home. I wanted to stay.

Ten years later, I visited Zachy and his family again for one night while I was in Israel on a youth trip. They sent me home with a huge bag of snacks for the plane. I’d never been packed a lunch like that.

Another ten years later, Zachy and his wife came to vacation in Toronto to stay in our house for a few weeks. I was in my early twenties and the only one in the house who sorta spoke their language.

So, as my mother did when she offered to babysit her grandkids, she left me with the responsibility of hosting the guests each day. I had a great time with them. I took them to the CN tower and around town and up to the cottage.

I loved seeing how much love Zachy showed when he held my baby nieces and nephews. I loved helping his wife make delicious mint tea.

My husband is my best friend. We met when I was 15 and I’ve loved him ever since. He is not just a guy who “fit the mould” he is amazing in his own right. But in retrospect, the similarities are noticeable.

My husband is from a big Israeli family. He is strong and confident on the outside and warm and loving to the core. As a teenager, he cared for his baby sister more gently and with more love than I’d ever seen.

When I met my future father-in-law for the first time, I noticed that his hands looked big and warm just like Zachy’s and his cologne (or maybe it was the cooking smells) smelled similar. His parent’s house sounded like Zachy’s and their dinner table looked like his. It was like I’d subconsciously come home.

Maybe I was lucky, maybe I was smart. But now my children get to be held each day by grandparents who are gentle and warm and genuinely glad to see them. And on Friday nights, they get lovingly hoisted up on shoulders- just like my “dad” did with me for two amazing weeks.

Zachy was the only man who ever cared for me like a loved child and made me feel like I deserved space in his world and in his heart. I think that from him, I learned that there are people with a different kind of love to give and so I searched and when I found one, I held on tight.


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