Sunday, June 15, 2008

Remembering Our Fathers

Today is June 15, 2008.

Father's Day.

For many of us it is a day to do what we want, eat what we want and be showered with another tie that will cause us to feign appreciation.

Father's are guy's and guy's are simple creatures. Dad's of a certain generation are mostly stoic, not easily given to emotion.

I grew up as part of the leading edge of the baby boomer generation. Life was simple then. Dad's went to work while mom stayed home. My mom cooked, cleaned the house (occasionally) but never in heels and pearls like June Cleaver.

My dad was a blue collar guy. Not given much to emotion, pretty much like his dad and probably his dad before him.

I swear my dad was the role model for Archie Bunker, right down to the easy chair and always wearing white socks.

Dad didn't drink beer, but he did yell a lot. Mostly at my brother and me for what seemed like nothing at all.

It took me years to understand, but in a quirky way, that was his way of showing how much he cared for us.

It all started to come together for me a few years ago when I got a book for Father's day. "Big Russ and Me" was a surprise best seller written by Tim Russert of "Meet the Press" fame.

Tim died on Friday.

I never met the man, and knew nothing about him other than what I read and observed.

Tim was a blue collar guy in a suit and a law degree. He hobnobbed with the Washington elite but never lost his true north.

When I heard that Tim had died, I felt like I had lost a friend. I read both his books and watched him on TV on a regular basis. His enthusiasm and understanding of his craft was contagious. His ability to take (to me at least) a boring topic and make it interesting was true genius.

But the one thing that impressed me most about this guy from Buffalo was his love for his father.

A few years back Tim was asked who he would like most to interview.

"The person who submitted that question was probably expecting me to name an elusive political figure, or perhaps a fascinating character from history, such as Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, or my first choice, Jesus Christ. But I took the question personally, and answered it immediately and from my heart: more than anyone else, I would like to interview my dad.

Big Russ has never been much of a talker, especially about himself. Part of it is his modesty: talking about himself probably feels like bragging, which he dislikes in other people and goes out of his way to avoid. It’s not that he’s silent, because Dad is a sociable and friendly guy, and in the right setting, and with people he knows well, you can get him going on any number of topics—politics, baseball, the Buffalo Bills, television, the best kind of hot dogs, and how Canadian beer tastes better when you buy it in Canada. But, like so many men of his generation, he won’t tell you much about his life, his thoughts, or his feelings."

I have to admit, when I read "Big Russ and Me" I actually cried. Much of Tim Russert's life and mine were interchangeable. It made me see my life, and my dad, in a different light.

Apparently others felt the same. So much so that people who read his book sent letters to Tim describing their dad.

This guy from blue collar Buffalo was so overwhelmed by the response, he wrote a second book titled "Wisdom of our Fathers".

I cried when I read that book too.

There is a certain irony that a man who loved his dad (and son) so much would die the weekend of Father's day. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Big Russ who lost his loving son, and to Luke who lost is dad.
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