Commentary: A father remembered

Sunday was my first Father's Day without a father.

My dad died March 23. He lived 85 mostly hearty, mostly healthy years, but his final days were difficult, leading afterward to many repetitions of that line so many have us have exchanged with friends and family: "At least he is no longer suffering."

That was true, but it also provided an easy brushoff to avoid discussing my deeper feelings about his passing until I knew how I really felt.

My immediate sense was simply emptiness. My dad and I had a strong connection even though we spoke to each other maybe once a month, sometimes less than that, and rarely on an intimate level. That bond allowed us to launch into an engaging conversation about culture, politics, sports – you name it – at any moment. After he died, it seemed strange to me that I would no longer be able to pick up the phone and tell him something or shoot him an e-mail. That might seem both trivial and obvious, but to me it was the first tangible effect of his death.

As Father's Day approached, I began thinking more seriously about the influence he had on me. Like many men of his generation, my father seemed to feel little need to meddle in the lives of his children, including me. I never remember him offering advice on how to live my life. But he had a huge effect nonetheless. Either his genes or his training, or both, molded me into the questioning, skeptical person I am today, and he taught me the value of being interested in civic affairs. Those qualities led naturally to a career in journalism.

My dad once hoped to be a lawyer. He earned a degree in philosophy and was accepted to Harvard Law School but had to drop out when the U.S. Navy called him back into service for the Korean War, where he commanded a supply ship. By the time the Navy released him, my parents had four kids and he needed to work to support the family, so law school was no longer an option.

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