Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"when you coming home, dad?" "i don't know when, but we'll get together then...

I don't know him personally, but my heartfelt condolences go to Josh Marshall, founder of the political blog Talking Points Memo, on the sudden loss of his dad a couple of weeks ago. Josh's moving tribute to his dad made me think a bit more about my relationship with my dad, as Josh and I share the experience of having a step-father raise us from a very young age and of thinking of him as "Dad" despite that a biological father is alive and well (and in my case living still in Denmark). This is not at all a slight to my biological father, but when I think of or speak the word "dad", I am referring to my step-father, the man who raised me. My father, the man in Denmark who gave me life, is a good guy who remarried and raised a great daughter and had a good career in the Danish government.

But it's my dad who I thought about upon reading Josh's post. My dad unblinkingly took in his new wife's 5-year old son, and without pause raised me as if I were his own. He had a son from a previous marriage and he and my mom produced two more boys. I'm a hard-headed and opinionated person, and so is my dad. We butted heads when I was younger and there were times I silently cursed him. All the while he would say "someday, you'll see I was right". And as time went by, he generally was. He's influenced me in many ways, mostly good, some not as good.

For better or worse I'm a product of his upbringing. Because of him I like to cook, I'm a die-hard Phillies fan (the sound of a baseball game on the radio is the essential sound of summer to me) and I'm literate in current events thanks to dinner table discussions where you'd best come prepared. There was always a newspaper in the house and the news on tv. I grew up watching him read voraciously. I could go on, but I assume that you get the point. He didn't give me physical life, but he's had a hand in making me the man that I am.

Josh wrote that due to his mother's untimely death and his dad's health problems, the call that came heralding his dad's death was not unexpected, that it hung over him "like a bird flying over me as I made my way in life". That was yet another part of the story that resonated deeply with me - about 10 months ago I got a call from my very upset mom. My dad had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. The good news was that it was caught early and through aggressive treatment he has essentially been cured without losing his bladder or any other organs, or without having to have arduous chemotherapy. That it was bladder cancer was especially troubling as that's what killed his dad. But that was 20-some years ago and it wasn't detected until way too late. Still, my dad is 71 and has some other health issues and having had a cancer scare (and it runs in the family) he's susceptible to more. Though I hope he lives a good long time, I know that a sudden call may come one day, and now I live 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast (also like Josh).

So not to get all maudlin and lose my snarky cred, go read Josh's post about his dad. Think about what your pops means to you. Like mothers and daughters have a unique relationships, so do sons and dads. So sons, think a bit about the man who raised you. If it's been a while since you had a chance to tell him what he means to you, do it. Today.

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