June 21, 2009
One of the people I met in line at the Apple store on Friday is about to become a dad.
"Next year," I told him, "Father's Day will feel completely different for you."
I love being a dad. I love the fun things as well as the challenges. Even when I've been exasperated or annoyed I've valued every moment of being a dad since my daughter Maggie Rose was placed in my arms too few years ago.
I met a friend for coffee this morning whose dad died a couple of years ago. Father's Day has a different feel for him. My dad is still alive so I can't possible understand how people who have lost their father's feel today any more than I could anticipate the changes I would feel on becoming a father.
I'm writing this from a bench in a beautiful park that also happens to be a cemetery just around the bend from the monument to President Garfield. A young woman helps her very little kids to arrange fresh flowers at their grandfather's grave. The kids look to be four and six and full of energy. The mother is doing an amazing job of keeping the moment important but not overly solemn. I wonder how they will remember Father's Day as they grow into teenagers and adults.
When I was young, my dad used to read to me, my sister, and my brother each night. He kept it up long past the ages where we could read for ourselves. He enjoyed it so much that it drew us in. For us at that age he had the passion and the talent that my adult ears hear when Jim Dale reads a Harry Potter story. I particularly remember him reading us "James and the Giant Peach".
As a high school student we read out loud in English class. We took turns reading from Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and other authors I haven't read for pleasure in way too much time.
When I graduated from college and went to work in radio, my father had no understanding of why I would want to do that. But for me, I was the evening man at a radio station reading to thousands of people I'd never met the same way my father had read to me years before. A couple of years ago I put a piece together for a radio contest to introduce myself as a possible radio host. The two minute piece told this story but also contains a more complicated story of parenting with help from my mom and dad and a connection to my daughter Elena. (I was going to link to the audio but the site appears to be down.)
I hadn't thought about this for a while until I was writing some marketing copy for our third book in the Life series. In "The Seed of Hope" the hero's father dies early in the book. I'm not giving away any of the story. Right at the beginning you are told that "Charlie never imagined that tomorrow would be the last day he would ever see his father alive." We recently recorded a podcast with the author, Quinton Wall, in which he reads the book's preface that ends with that line.
Editor Susannah Pfalzer asked Quinton to read this portion of the book at the end of a telephone interview and it was a lot of fun to hear the book in the voice of the author. We're thinking of recording more of the book with a better microphone and a bit more editing. We may do this as an experiment with some of our other Life titles as well.
It may just be my memories of being read to by my dad or of reading to my girls, but there's something pretty special about hearing a book.
This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.