On Fathers’ Day

Fathers Day — one of the those wonderfully commercial, utterly insincere, Madison Avenue contrived holidays — is coming up in a few weeks, but it will be a little different for me this year because my dad passed away last week.I hope I don’t sound maudlin this morning. I was very lucky. My dad, a genuinely good guy if I do say so myself, was fortunate enough to live a great life, well into his 80’s.

Since his passing though, I’ve started to think about the things that were never said.  My dad was born on October 31, 1928. Just in time for Halloween and just in time for the Great Depression.Like a lot of men of his generation, he wasn’t naturally inclined toward “caring and sharing.” He came of age in the “pre-Oprah” era, so while we talked a good bit, those conversations were usually limited to the world of politics, the Phillies, the Eagles, the woeful Sixers, and all things Notre Dame.

In hindsight, I wish I had asked him about his favourite books and movies. I wonder what his great fears and frustrations were. Was there a particular decision that he later regretted? Were there times when he felt inadequate or less than courageous? That failure to understand was mine, and perhaps it was just a case of my own profound lack of curiosity.

At times, parents may seem like wallpaper; they are pleasant enough, of course, but they are almost invisible, hovering out there on the edge of reality. They are a part of the daily drama of life, but theirs is usually a supporting role. They may give you a ride, slip you a few bucks, or offer an occasional, unsolicited piece of advice, but especially as you go through adolescence, they seem to recede more and more beyond the sidelines.

If I had a little more time, I’d ask my dad more and better questions, questions about his past, about what had shaped him, and about what was important to him, about whom he admired and why. I think that he might have appreciated my interest, and I may have had a better understanding of him as a result.

Anyway, with Father’s Day coming up soon, rather than a spiffy tie, you might consider giving your dad, or the man who plays a father-like role in your life, the gift of some time and some genuine interest. That “curiosity, imagination, and passion” line from the mission statement is something that might serve us all well in life far beyond the IB.


6 thoughts on “On Fathers’ Day

  1. Jim~
    I read, with sadness, about the loss of your father and I want to pass along my condolences with two brief stories. We lost my father this past January of a sudden and massive heart attack. As we were going through some of his things over the Easter weekend, I came across a special edition to the Inquirer from the Flyers ’75 Stanley Cup Championship. My father always had season tickets to the Flyers when I was younger and was there when they won the Cup in ’74 and ’75. I brought that paper back and proudly displayed it on my desk for all of the Sabre’s fans to see this spring. Dad would have been proud of that series, although I think we were both hoping for a little more Bernie Parent in net.
    I am sure that this past weekend was difficult for you and your family. I know that I was reminded of my father and thought of conversations un-had. I tried to lose myself in one of our middle school summer reading books, True Grit, but kept wishing that my dad was around to talk about it. Oh how he loved a good western!
    I hope you and your family are coping well and celebrating the life of your father and I hope that both of our dads are able to find each other to cheer on the Phillies this summer.

  2. Happy Fathers Day –

    Sorry to hear that your father died. I still see my parents all the time since they live so close so I am lucky.

    I was thinking of having a video Q & A with my dad this year. I think I will make sure it happens. I started one but it never got to where I wanted it – mostly golf stories.

    Before Father Time passes us by…..I will have to fire up the video cam.

    Canada is getting to you – check out the way you spelled favorite (Yankee preferred spelling) below. Eh?

  3. Jim, Condolences on the death of your Dad.This may not be book recommendation time , but Finding our Fathers by Samuel Osherson vividly paralles the sought after connection and the may questions one wishes they had asked their Dad. The reticent self-effacing Dad you speak of strikes a chord with many sons and daughters.

    Yet your Dad was a 20 plus a day walker. His mind and heart must have been filled with curiosity and imagination during those daily journeys.
    I propose there was a connection, a deeply embedded communication between father and son , as his son now leads a school with a mission statement of “curiosity and imagination..” for its students.One daily journey begets another.

    All the best to your mother and family at this time.
    With Care,

  4. My thoughts are with you at this time. We are never ready for such moments but we carry with us all the lasting memories. May you and your family share all you remember, today and always. Forever he will be-D-A-D.
    “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” ~George Herbert

  5. Goodness, Jim, I’m sorry to hear the news. My heart is with you and your family.

    How brave and touching to write this post. I’ll take your wise recommendation to heart and spend some time with my father on the 19th, whether by phone or by Skype (if my more technologically inclined mother is available for IT support). Although our conversations about the things that matter never came easily, we definitely have a similar thread, albeit with our conversations about the Yankees, the Giants, and the woeful Knicks.

    Of course, I’ll still expect that spiffy tie from my kids. But when they’re older, I hope to share your words with them.

  6. Jim, my sympathies are with you and your family. I lost my father in 1983 before I hit 30 and I still miss him very much. There were many questions left unanswered and words left unspoken, but over the years I have discovered he remains in many ways–including the image I see in the mirror as I get older; I hear his laugh in mine; my beard has turned grey like his. He had many interesting expressions and observations–I make doggone sure my daughter knows them. And, I’ve taken some serious steps to make sure that when she reaches this point in her life, she has more than a few old photos and letters to try to decipher what I was all about. There’s also something I’ve since learned–the pain we experience at times like these also increases our capacity to love. . . if we choose to allow it to do so. I remember you speaking very highly and poignantly about him on the way to a Keys game. He had to have been a wonderful man.

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