June 18, 2004,
EDITOR'S NOTE: In honor of Father's Day, National Review Online asked a mix of fathers, sons, and daughters to share either the best advice their fathers ever gave them, or, if it applied, the best fatherly advice they ever gave their own children. Their replies are below. NRO encourages you to share fatherly wisdom from your family, too: Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org, and check our weblog, The Corner, throughout the weekend to read some highlights from our inbox.
And, Happy Father's Day!
So I started off as editor of a tiny magazine in Princeton, N.J., and always held senior editorial jobs up the chain to bigger and bigger organizations, through the Wall Street Journal into Fox News...
David Asman is a Fox News Channel host and anchor.
My father says this every time we talk, and repeats it like a mantra. Recently, he said this to my husband and me on our wedding day, as he joined my mother in toasting us at our reception. This man who once kept his friends in stitches with his off-the-cuff poems and elaborate jokes could barely find his table that night. He had forgotten nearly all of his favorite lines. But this phrase survived.
Recently, I asked my father what this phrase means to him. In a moment of unusual clarity, his blue eyes widened and he leaned forward in his chair.
"It means we can trust God. We're in good shape."
In the eight years since his Alzheimer's diagnosis, I have seen my father lose nearly everything that once defined him. But he has not lost his faith. And even in the darkness of his dementia, he is reaching out to me, reminding me that no problem of mine is greater than God's grace.
As much as I miss my father's Irish wit, no words of his have ever taught me more.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is a former speechwriter to President George W. Bush and author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. She is currently working on a book about her father and the spirituality of dementia.
In that vein, I think the sagest thing I have ever said to a child of my own was: "When you meet people, smile, put out your hand to be shaken, look them straight in the eye, and say 'How do you do?'"
It's not much, but it's surprising how far it'll get ya.
Dad would make lists galore. At the start of the morning, there he would be, at school (JPL was a Catholic-school teacher, then principal) or at home, plotting his agenda, taking humble pride in each cross-out, happy to explain his strategy if you were interested, and enthusiastic to show you how it is done, step-by-step, if you were eager to learn. And, an essential component to prioritization for him was knowing when to stop. His devotion to Catholic education could have easily made him work 24/7, but he knew better. His devotion to his family, love for his wife and their children, had him planning exciting vacations and going above and beyond to help with the homework (I would not have passed algebra without him the rational genes weren't all passed on) and the most delicious dinners. (And the list goes on.)
I haven't fully incorporated all of the advice yet, for sure especially the walking-away principle but I know he'll keep reminding me.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of NRO.
Still, the first instance of fatherly advice I can remember receiving may not be the best example of what I'm talking about.
We were walking up Broadway as "bagel-lancers" (the term my mom used for the contingent, always led by my father, charged with retrieving the provisions for our traditional lox-and-bagels Sunday breakfast.
I couldn't have been much older than five or six. Around 88th street, my dad stopped, still holding my hand. He turned to me with an expression of sincere but stern concern and said:
"If you're ever pulled over by a policeman in South America, you must say something like: 'I'm sorry officer, I didn't realize I was breaking the law. Is there any way I can pay the fine in cash right here?'"
I said, "Okay Dad."
We started walking again and got the bagels.
Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of NRO.
So the car trip was kind of a trial. But it was also a revelation, because to curb my restlessness, my father began to tell me jokes. And not just any jokes, but Jewish jokes. As we passed by wondrous natural formations in our rented Dodge, my dad told me about the rich woman who asks the bellman at her Miami hotel to carry her grown son out of her limo and into her room. "My God, can't he walk?" the bellman asks. "Yes," says the woman, "but thank God he doesn't have to."
And on it went. He told me jokes as we drove near Laredo, Texas, where the only program we could pick up on the AM radio was called The Christian-Jew Hour. (Only they weren't telling Jewish jokes, they were talking about the end of the world and the conversion of the Jews.) He told me jokes as we whizzed through New Mexico, where the only song that played on every radio station was Olivia Newton John's "Please Mister Please (Don't Play B-17)." And by the time the trip was through, a 14-year-old boy and a 45-year-old man had formed a bond we share to this day a bond that requires a decent Yiddish accent and a crack sense of timing.
John Podhoretz is a columnist for the New York Post and author of Bush Country: How Dubya Became a Great President While Driving Liberals Insane.
"As my father used to say to me," he told us in that deep, rich tenor voice, "You get what you pay for."
As it turns out, that little sagebrush aphorism stuck. Indeed, my father was reminded of how well it stuck in the spring of 1994, when I graduated from college.
It will surprise no one who knows me that I was not much of a student in college. "To whom much has been given, much is expected," I was told by my Jesuit taskmasters in high school. And I took that to heart. There was no denying I had been given much: a subsidized early adulthood at a fine college in the South, where the weather was warm, the students were friendly, and the school's informal slogan was: "The party with one helluva cover charge." As such, I planned to do much of what was expected just maybe not in the way Fr. Woodward and the other Pope's Marines had in mind when I left high school.
So thoroughly, um, uninspired was my academic performance in everything other than my philosophy major ("I drink, therefore I am") that my mother later admitted to me that she did not think I would graduate on time. But I proved the doubters wrong and, sure enough, that bright day in May arrived, and I walked across the stage at the end of the university's broad lawn and, grinning ear to ear, received my diploma which dispatched me from my undergraduate cocoon into the "real world."
After the graduation ceremony, with my diploma tucked under my arm, I meandered through the crowd looking to find my family. In the distance I saw my father with his trademark shock of white hair. As he approached me, I noticed a mischievous grin creeping up on his face. Having forked over approximately the GNP of a small Pacific island for the teeny privilege of hearing my name announced in the graduating-class roll call, he clearly felt entitled to put me in my proper place.
"Welcome to the ranks of the unemployed," he said, happy as could be to be raining on my sunny-day parade.
Without missing a beat, however, I responded.
"Ah, that's where you're mistaken, Pop. As I learned in my Econ 101 class, in order to be considered technically unemployed, you have to be actively seeking work. And since I have no immediate plans to do that any time soon, I'm not actually unemployed."
With that rejoinder, my father's head tilted to the side and his nostrils flared slightly and his grin turned down in a manner which seemed to say, "Is this smart-ass really my son?"
Before he had a chance to verbalize his annoyance, I went straight for the jugular.
"Hey, don't blame me," I said. "I wouldn't even know I wasn't unemployed if you hadn't paid for me to come to this college and take that Econ 101 class. So buck up. I'm just pointing out what I learned here. After all, as you always told us: You get what you pay for."
Happy Father's Day, Pop!
Nick Schulz is the editor of TechCentralStation.com. He wonders how much his father, William Schulz, is amused by this story.
Andrew Stuttaford is an NRO contributing editor.