Tag Archives: Father’s Day

Yes, indeed … the questions for Dad keep mounting

Once in a while it hits me: I’ve now been alive longer without my dad than with. Because he died in 2001. The more time that passes … the more questions I wish I could ask him.

The quote I posted at the top of this item belongs to Brian Stelter, CNN’s media critic and host of the network’s “Reliable Sources” program. He put this message out via Twitter.

I happen to relate quite directly to what Stelter has noted. I have been alive longer without my own father than I was with him among us. Dad died in 1980. His death came as a stunner to me and the rest of my family.

Dad was just 59 years of age. I was 30 when he died. I will turn 70 near the end of this year. The idea that I have lived 10-plus years longer than Dad did is enough of a mind-blower all by itself.

Dad has crossed my mind every single day since he left us. So has Mom, who died just a little more than four years after Dad.

But as Stelter noted, the more time goes by the more questions have entered my mind. They deal largely with the way Dad lived his life. They pertain to some of the mistakes I saw him make. They tug at my emotions occasionally, eliciting feelings associated with opportunities lost. Hey, I could have asked him so many of those questions, forced him to answer. Perhaps they could have assuaged some of the mystery that surrounded him.

It’s not that Dad was a mysterious man. He was in many ways an open book. He was a bit of a showman. Dad enjoyed making people laugh. He could tell a joke with as much flair and panache as anyone I’ve ever known. However, perhaps he intended for that showmanship to overshadow some unknowable emotional discomfort. So I guess the book wasn’t open as widely as it could have been. Thus, the questions I have harbored for many years are coming forward on this Father’s Day.

I miss my father. This day doesn’t sadden me. It does, just as it does for Brian Stelter, fill me with a strange desire for answers to questions that have lingered for most of my life.

Dad asked a simple question … and gave birth to a career

It’s kind of late in the day. It’s about to end.

But in the waning hours of Father’s Day, I’ve suddenly gotten filled with the desire to share a brief story about my dad and a simple question he posed to me.

It was late in 1970. I had returned home from a two-year U.S. Army stint. I was preparing to re-enroll in college.

Mom, Dad and I were having dinner one evening at their home, where I returned after my Army hitch.

We were chatting about college, my plans and what I might want to do with my life now that my military obligation was over. I was single, unattached (for the time being) and I had my whole life ahead of me.

Dad asked, “Have you declared a major yet? Do you know what you want to study in college?”

I had not yet made that decision. “Why do you ask?” I said.

Dad responded immediately, “Have you thought about journalism?”

To be honest, I hadn’t given it any thought. “Journalism?” I asked.

Sure, he said. He told me of the letters I wrote home from wherever I was stationed for the previous two years. I wrote home frequently from basic training in Fort Lewis, Wash.; from Fort Eustis, Va., where I went through my advanced training; then from Da Nang, South Vietnam and later, from Fort Lewis, where I was assigned at the end of my tour.

He mentioned how “descriptive” they were. He said I had this ability to turn a phrase. He thought journalism might be a good fit for me, given — he said — my ability to string sentences together.

Oh, gee, why not? So, I returned to college in January 1971, enrolling in some journalism-related classes.

I then fell in love with this craft called “journalism.”

I stayed with it for the next four decades.

I look back at that dinner-time moment with Dad and Mom with great fondness and appreciation for the simple question that Dad asked. It helped me — along with prodding and pushing from the girl who would become my wife in September 1971 — undertake a fruitful and moderately successful career in print journalism.

It’s not yet over, thankfully.

I’m pretty sure I thanked Dad for nudging me down that path. He’s been gone now for 35 years; Mom died 31 years ago. I can’t thank them again now.

However, I can share this memory to remind myself — and perhaps others — of our parents’ wisdom.

In that moment at the dinner table, father definitely knew best.

Dads get smarter the older we become

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
— Mark Twain

How true is that?

Of course, it’s not really the “old man” who learned all those thing. It’s the individual he brought into the world who’s climbed the learning hill.

Most of us have had similar experiences with our parents. Dad and Mom were dumber than dirt when we were kids. Then at some point, a miracle occurred. For me, it came around the time of my 25th year.

I was a new parent at the time myself. The younger of my two sons had just been born. My wife and I were seeking our way in the world. We couldn’t really know, of course, where our journey would take us. It’s taken us to plenty of places. We’ve been able to see and do many things we never dreamed of doing when we both were kids.

But right about the time I started my own on-the-job parental training, I began to realize the difficulty that my parents went through to rear my sisters and me. And I began to realize they weren’t so dumb after all.

This wising up happens to most of us. When it does, benefits are spread all around.

Mom and Dad seem smarter than they were. You definitely are smarter than you were. The shared wisdom accrues to everyone.

The greatest payoff of all is when you realize on these days when we honor our parents — such as Mothers and Fathers Day — that you’ve done your job well.

The journey my wife and I have taken together for the past nearly 44 years has included watching our own sons grow into fine men. Did they think of us the way ol’ Sam Clemens and I thought of our parents? Sure they did … and although neither of them ever articulated as such to either of us, it’s part of growing up.

That’s OK. We’re all past that now.

They’ve made us proud every step of the way.

All of us have gotten smarter, too.

Father's Day stirs memories

Father’s Day has been a joyous, but oddly strange, event for me for the past, oh, 34 years or so.

My own father died in the late summer of 1980. He was just 59. He was out cavorting on a business/pleasure trip just north of Vancouver, British Columbia when a small speedboat he was riding in crashed and capsized. Two of the men survived the crash; Dad was one of the two who died.

In recent years I’ve tried to imagine him as an old man. He’d be 93 now. I know a lot of 90-plus-year-old men. Many of them are quite vital, full of energy and ideas, are fully engaged in the world around them. Would Dad be like that? We’ll never know.

Mom would die just four years after Dad. She was just 61 when she passed away. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and, take it from me, no one ever should endure the misery of watching a cherished member of your family vanish before your eyes — even as she sits right in front of you.

But Father’s Day has been a blessing for me nonetheless.

Yes, I still miss both of my parents terribly. However, I’ve been blessed beyond all measure by the life I’ve been able to lead. I owe those blessings to my wife and my own two sons.

We’ve ventured far and wide as a family. We’ve gone to places, seen things and met the most interesting people possible. We’ve been able to share much of that together. I have enjoyed the ride immensely along the way and hope they’ve all enjoyed it as well.

My sons are now successful in their respective careers. They’ve forged good lives and have grown into responsible men. One of them has added blessings even above all that by marrying a lovely young woman and producing our first granddaughter who, I shall declare here and now, is the most beautiful girl on Planet Earth.

It’s been said that everyone has a story to tell. This is just a tiny fraction of my own story. This post, though, isn’t about me. It’s about my blessed family.

Those young men and their mother are the reasons today I celebrate Father’s Day.