In May of 2006 Tim Russert edited a book on Fathers My story of my own father is one of the stories
My Father Would Have Loved My Children
My father was born in 1889 and was 57 when I was born. Some of his 8 older siblings were born while the family still lived in a sod hut on their Dakota Territory homestead. His world was so different from mine, but my father would have loved my children. This may not seem like such a remarkable statement; most people love their grandchildren. Some do not. Some are not able to overcome the fact that their beloved child chose to marry someone of a different race and have children with tan skin and curly little Afros, but my father would have loved my children.
Even as my teenage son looked like he just escaped from a rap video, with baggy pants and a big crystal in his ear, my father would have gotten a huge kick out of him. My dad would have loved that my son inherited his gift for Math. He would have appreciated his sense of humor and he would love him because he is mine.
My father would have loved my daughter because she is such a great listener and would sit attentively as he told stories of graduating from high school at 14 -- because he got through all the books in the one room school house. Of his years managing a classic old hotel and having President Roosevelt visit and the man who carved Mount Rushmore live there. He would have been impressed that she can put anything together -- even without the directions. He would have admired her artistic talent and would have made a big fuss over her simplest drawing.
I'm not saying that initially the thought of a racially mixed marriage might not have been a little difficult for him to get used to. After all, I grew up in the fifties in a town where a mixed marriage was one between a Lutheran and a Catholic. And even back then people would ask, "But what about the children?" He would not have taken long to get used to the idea and he would have loved the children.
The hotel my father ran was a classic and in the thirties and forties the destination of many wealthy businessmen from Chicago. Their African American chauffeurs often drove these men to the Black Hills. The man who built the hotel was a railroad executive and my father sometimes traveled with him, sometimes in his private railroad car. There he met the Pullman employees also of African descent.
My father was a man of some dignity but he was not cautious with his language. He never hesitated to call someone an SOB if he was one; he never hesitated to identify BS when it was. But the only way I ever heard him describe a black man was as a "colored gentleman". This was long before I ever met anyone who was not white. Somehow his way of saying it and the words he used made a strong impression, one of definite respect.
My dad wasn't especially impressed by facades and surface trappings. He had friends in all the different social strata of our small community. He truly did consider the ''content of one's character " in judging a person.
What mattered to him most, however, was his family. He adored and respected my mother and thought the sun rose and set upon the heads of his children. He wasn't outwardly competitive like parents tend to be these days, but in-house, we all knew that he thought we were the best.
His health began to fail when I was in high school. And some days when I came home from school I would find him sitting in his big wing back chair facing the bookshelves. On the shelves were pictures of each of his children. He once told me that he went from picture to picture much of the day stopping at each of the five and saying a prayer for each, because now that was the only way he could take care of us. He thought we were the best. My father died a few years after that, but if he had known my children, he would have thought they were the best too.
From Wisdom of our Fathers. edited by Tim Russert. May 2006