In honor of Father’s Day, we asked a few interesting sons to recall their favorite memory of their father. A humor writer recalls acting as his dad’s wingman, a major leaguer remembers playing catch, and a beloved children’s performer reflects on saying goodbye. One son offered his own realization that Father’s Day wasn’t just for his father anymore. It was for him, too.
To all the dads out there, happy Father’s Day.
My father was a real tough guy with a soul battered by a hard World War II — something he did not talk about. He did not laugh much. He took me when I was 11 to see a James Bond film — in those days they were not all death and violence — and there was a really funny part. He started laughing and I joined him. And together we were crying with laughter, tears pouring down our faces. I will always remember that unfamiliar noise of his laughter and the closeness we had at that moment in the theater.
— Robert Swan, polar explorer, U.N. goodwill ambassador for youth and founder of the preservation organization 2041
Dad would come home after doing the 6 o’clock news and play catch
with me in the front yard in his shirt and tie. He would then head back to the TV station after we were done. It was something we did nearly every day and was always something I looked forward to.
— Drew Storen, Washington Nationals pitcher
With just a few weeks left before I graduated from the University of Virginia, I accompanied my dad to Florida to visit his sister’s family. As we enjoyed a couple father-son drinks at the hotel bar, we were joined by a dark-haired woman who resembled a John Warner-era Elizabeth Taylor. She was an old fling of my father’s that I recognized from a photo from his bachelor days in Georgetown in the ’60s. She was funny and a flirt, and suddenly my dad was 25 again, charming, uninhibited and laughing harder than I’d seen him laugh in years — certainly since his divorce from my mom 15 years earlier. I played wingman, freshening the drinks and drawing out the kinds of stories that a man shelves when he gets married and becomes a family man. . . . He died suddenly a few months later, and now when I want to picture him at his happiest, at his best, I think of that night at the hotel bar at the Naples Ritz.
— Walker Lamond, author of “Rules for My Unborn Son ” (St. Martin’s Press, 2009)
When I was a child, my father always seemed bigger than life. Growing up I was not very close to him. He wasn’t that kind of dad. However, the last six months of his life will always be the most precious memories I have of him. As he became frail and bedridden, I would sit by his side week after week and listen intently to his stories as if trying to absorb his 87 years of wisdom. I held his hands, fed him, massaged his crooked fingers and touched his forehead. He spoke of time gone by, his failures and his successes. We discussed religion (I’m an atheist; he’s an agnostic) and the afterlife. We spoke of politics and world history, the time he met Egypt’s President Nasser and how he fell in love with my mother. When he passed away last Father’s Day, I had the incredible privilege of washing his body before burial. The act of ablution is an Islamic ritual. I washed along with my older brother using washcloths and soap and cool water. I lovingly washed his pale face, his bony fingers and his feet. It was a profound and spiritual way of connecting with him forever.
— Anas “Andy” Shallal, owner Busboys & Poets
I learned my work ethic from my father. He worked at Freedmen’s Hospital, the forerunner to Howard University Hospital, during the day, as chief of the Supplies Department, and drove a taxicab at night, typically working a total of 14 to 16 hours a day. Although he never went to high school, he was extremely bright. In fact, he was cited for an invention that ultimately was used in virtually every hospital in the nation. In those days, blood pressure instruments were bulky and heavy and had to be carried from one hospital room to the next. My dad developed a mounting device that made these instruments much more mobile. He was hard-working, focused and no-nonsense. And he was widely respected for his work and achievements.
— D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray
Growing up, my dad and I played lots of golf together. Those three- or four-hour stretches of time were some of the best in my childhood. On the course, he quietly taught me patience, integrity, respect and sportsmanship. Other than the white ball, there were no distractions. It was perfect father and son time.
When he was on his deathbed and could barely speak, his zest for learning was still there. I remember in his last couple days he asked me for a mouthpiece to try to learn the flute. He was on his deathbed, and he asked me to go buy him the New York Times because he wanted to read the Science section. He never wanted to stop learning. We had never really said, “I love you,” but when he was dying, I told him I loved him. He broke down and cried. I held his hand as he took his last breath.
— Eric Knaus, a.k.a. the Great Zucchini, children’s performer
Thinking back to my first Father’s Day as a dad, I confess, what I remember most was the feeling of detached bewilderment. The kid was only 4 months old, so, of course, she had no concept. In the night, my awesome wife had thoughtfully placed a box of my favorite cereal, Crunch Berries, on my computer. But otherwise, when our neighbor or the guy at church called out, “Happy Father’s Day!” I’d invariably think, “Who, me?” It’s an official, symbolic, finite recognition of a never-ending, family role. Maybe Sartre would’ve said it best: Father’s Day is other people.
— Greg Allen, Daddytypes blogger
What are your favorite memories of Father’s Day or of the man who inspired it in your life?
More Father’s Day content:
- “As parenting roles shift, men are now freer than ever to be real fathers,” By Petula Dvorak
- “How to write to your kids,” By Bob Brody
- “Father’s Day: Tell us your dad quote,” By Andrea Caumont
- “Snag a Father’s Day gift at these sales,” By Janet Bennett Kelly