In his Idol Chatter entry about Tim Russert, Patton Dodd put voice to the loss we, his fans, feel at his sudden death. There’s another side of Russert that I’ve been focused on, however: Tim Russert the devoted father and son. I had the joy of interviewing Russert two years ago for Father’s Day, and I can’t stop thinking about the fact that he died just before Father’s Day.
In our conversation, he spoke so lovingly about his dad, “Big Russ,” and his son, Luke, and I can’t imagine the pain they’re both feeling at his loss. His NY Times obituary included the heart-breaking anecdote that when Luke was leaving for college, “several friends wondered aloud to the father how he would survive being so far away from his son.”
At the time I interviewed him, my wife was pregnant, a fact I mentioned to Russert by way of asking his advice about fatherhood. His answer was, like everything that came out of his mouth, wise and eloquent, and is haunting in light of the absence his son will feel for the rest of his life:
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.