Showing Love, Spending Time
In 'Wisdom of Our Fathers,' newsman Tim Russert shares some of the responses he received to his first book on fatherhood.
BY: Interview by Michael Kress
He said, "Well, that's half the expression. The full expression is, 'You've got to eat if you're going to drink.'" So I said, "Dad--come on, I'm not going to college anymore," and he laughed like crazy.
But he took the book to heart. It came out in May of '04, and in November of '04 I went home for Thanksgiving. We were loading our car to go back to the airport. And my dad came up to me. And normally, he was not someone who said a lot. I knew he loved me because I saw it by his hard work and by his actions, but he never used those words until Thanksgiving of '04 after the book had come out.
We usually say, "Good-bye" by a half of a handshake and half of a hug. And suddenly he engulfed me in a bear hug and grabbed me and pulled me close and said, "I love you." And that was a big deal. I wish I'd written the book 30 years ago.Why do you think that it is so hard for so many fathers to be that expressive emotionally?
I think men from his generation had to grow up fast. He left school in the 10th grade to go fight World War II. You don't have much adolescence or much youth when you're thrown into that kind of situation. And I think they saw some extraordinary things during that time. And then they came home and he worked two full-time jobs as a sanitation man and a truck driver. And so, his perception of who he was, I think, was different than a lot of men in 2006.
The wonderful thing in "Wisdom of our Fathers" is that a lot of sons and daughters say that their dad never said to them the three magic words, "I love you," but they always knew it. They always felt secure. They always felt love. But it was just a generation that preferred to show it through actions rather than words.
In the book you say that you didn't expect to include a chapter on forgiveness. Why not, and why did you in the end?
Because in my own circumstance, as many times as I had an argument or a dispute with my parents, it was always resolved and usually within an hour, certainly a day. There was never anything lingering or protracted.
But when I receive a lot of letters of children and dads who had real estrangement--Becky Blanton for 15 years, until she learned her dad was dying of cancer--I realized that that was something that existed across the country and it was important to talk about. Because these sons and daughters and their fathers show that you can heal, you can reconcile. And I thought it was important that people who were in that current circumstance would read this and learn from it, because you only have one dad and you only have one mom. And I think it's important for a son or a daughter, and certainly their grandchildren, that a family is able to reconcile and to forgive.
You talk in the book about your role as a father. I'm going to be a father for the first time soon, and I was wondering if you have any advice for a father-to-be like myself?
|Advice for a father-to-be|
Congratulations! I do. The first thing is that my dad worked two full-time jobs, as I mentioned, and so he was away working all the time. And that made a very strong impression on me. I respected him for it, but I wish that he had been at my games and school events. And so, I made a pledge to myself that if I was ever blessed to be a father I would make sure that I had a job that would allow me to partake very actively in those kinds of events and activities of my son or daughter.
As it turned out, I had a son, and I was able to coach his teams. And because of my situation with NBC, I was able to take my cell phone and beeper and go to the games and still come back in case of a news emergency. But I made a point of that and I really think that is so important, so essential, if you can possibly work it out.
Secondly, it's being there. It is just being there. It's not the organized vacations that really, truly matter. My son is now in college. Whenever he flies home from college, I go to the airport and pick him up. He could easily take a taxi. But I want to go there. I want to wait for the luggage with him. I want to ride in the car with him because you can talk to him or you can hear him talking on the cell phone. You learn something. And it's invaluable that you have that conversation, that you have that kind of--that relationship, that bonding, if you will.