I believe you know I have long regarded the Winter Festival as a time for rest, recreation, reading and reflection. In the past few years, I have not honored this belief as well as I recall having previously done and as I resolve to do in the future. I believe, however, this is the first year of return to Winter Festival celebrations as they might and ought to be.
One of the readings I completed this season, is Promises to Keep by Joe Biden, To my delight, it proved to be a treasure trove of insights I could relate to and from which I could learn. One of these is Joe's realization that he needed to let his sons know how proud he was of them and how much he loved them. This is a pressing concern because Joe is awaiting an operation that might either kill him or leave him unable to speak. Considering this incident made me realize I need to do the same with you both and should not await hospitalization before doing so,
The song says, “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way you feel. Things are gonna be much better if you only will.” Sound advice, so, here goes.
My father died when I was less than two years old. My mother, understandably, lapsed into a protracted grieving process. She had lost the love of her life when they went their separate ways after high school. Then she found him again but within a few brief years, cancer snatched him away. She cared for me well, but was somewhat distracted and distant in my early years.
As a young, fatherless boy, I needed a positive male role model even though I did not know it. Nonetheless, I found him in a theater when I was six and a half. His name was Will Kane and I met him in Hadleyville at High Noon in 1952. He is of course a movie character. Through the great performance by Gary Cooper, Will Kane lived as surely as anyone ever has. I watched the movie and absorbed the message conveyed by the scenes, the acting, and, most explicitly, the song, “Do Not Forsake Me”. When I left the theater, I did not know what fate awaited me; I only knew I must be brave. From that point forward, I had a firm idea of what it meant to be not merely a male, but to be a man.
As I lived, grew, and learned, I began appreciate some of the characteristic sentiments the Irish use to express their best sense of themselves. In particular, this so-called “Traditional Irish Blessing” resonates with the value of and need for bravery:
I wish you not a path devoid of clouds
Nor a life on a bed of roses
Nor that you might never need regret
Nor that you should never feel pain
No, that is not my wish for you
My wish for you is:
That you might be brave in time of trials.
When others place crosses on your shoulders;
When mountains must be climbed and chasms must be crossed;
When hope can scarce shine through;
That every gift God gave you may grow along with you
And let you give the gift of joy to all who care for you.
That you may always have a friend who is worth that name,
Whom you can trust, and who helps you in times of sadness,
Who will defy the storms of daily life at your side.
The emphasis is mine in order to elucidate the direct link this blessing forged with the lesson I learned while watching High Noon as a youngster. The Cosmos was sending me messages. All I needed to do was pay attention and act on them. The kind of man I wanted to be was coming into focus. My first priority was to be brave. My second aim was to win the love of a good woman who would not forsake me, and for whom I would willingly go through the gates of Hell, if need be. Third, I wanted to be a friend worthy of the name and to have at least one friend of whom the same could be said. Finally, I hoped to be a father in the best sense of the word, not merely a biological father, but a psychological and sociological father.
I do not know if I have met my first priority in all cases, but I am sure I have always tried to measure up. I have surely won the love of a good woman and this victory is the wellspring of all other good developments in my life. I am fortunate enough to have several friends worthy of the name and have done my best to reciprocate. This brings me to my last major priority in life.
The real verdict is yours to make. For my part, I want to say definitively it has been an authentic privilege to be your father. If any man lives or has ever lived who is proud of his sons it is I. From the time, I saw you in the delivery room until now you have both been wonders and treasures in my life. Due to developments far beyond your control that are in no part your responsibility, the economic circumstances in which you grew up have not been as affluent as I would have preferred. I am confident I made numerous mistakes and know specifically of times when I was less kind to each of you than you truly deserved. Therefore, I make no claim to perfection. Despite my shortfalls, however, you both have grown into men I can honestly respect. My estimation of you is high and numerous friends and acquaintances have given unsolicited testimony, even with only brief interaction, that you make an excellent impression on them as well. So my favorable estimation is not a product of mere parental prejudice, it is a simple recognition of your caliber as human beings. In terms of character and conduct, your lives have so superbly begun that I feel confident they will progress well on all other levels. Please accept my loving gratitude for the chance to participate in this.
As you look at the movie, watch it with the eyes of a young boy. Consider the power of the medium to project a message. Open yourselves up to what the song, the scenes, and the portrayals convey. This movie marked my life from its early stages and I believe it gave me something of enduring worth. “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have thus far safely come”. The “Amazing Grace” of High Noon has seen me safe thus far, and I am confident it will lead me home. The magic and the meaning of this movie truly merit attention and receptivity. I hope it touches as it did me so long ago.
To quote Rod Stewart:
“When you finally fly away, I’ll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime, no one can tell.
But whatever road you choose,
I’m right behind you win or lose.”
I hope we have many more years to enjoy each other’s companionship. I hope to celebrate your triumphs in your chosen fields and hold your children in my arms. I hope to meet the women you will love as long and deeply as I love your mother. These are my hopes as your father and some of my hopes as your friend as well. While I can succinctly state my aspirations for you both, I cannot assure either of you that they will come true. I do not know what fate awaits us; I only know we must be brave.
Now come what may, I have shared with you my most genuine feelings as clearly as I know how. As this year begins, may these thoughts be the wind in your sails and a beacon on your paths. Thank you for being the fine young men you both are. Thank you both for being such a wonderful and rewarding presence in my life.
Larry [aka Dad]