Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Fathers’ Day Reverie

I made an unusual early Sunday morning foray into my office in Wellesley to be able to share some thoughts on this Fathers’ Day morning with readers of The White Rhino Report.

Let me begin by saying that on Fathers’ Day, my thoughts always turn to remembering my own father and two grandfathers. So, here is a tip of the cap in memory of and in honor of:

Lewis F. Chase, my father

J. Walter Chase, his father

Arthur Champoux, my mother’s father

The three men were quite different from one another, but all three shared the trait of being laconic and parsimonious with their words. I, obviously, did not inherit that gene, being of a decidedly more loquacious bent and of a more voluble generation.

This Father’s Day weekend has several more hours to go before the sun sets on family celebrations, but I already count myself blessed. My son, Scott, knew he would not be around today for us to be able to celebrate together, so on Friday evening, we met in Newburyport and had an early Fathers’ Day dinner at one of my favorite local seafood restaurants, the Starboard Galley. We shared a table on the patio overlooking the mouth of the Merrimac River, and enjoyed reminiscing over fresh seafood and the restaurant’s famous Jalapeno Poppers! Scott also gave me the gift of a book I had been eying – Tim Russert’s, Wisdom of Our Fathers – Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons. I literally could not put the book down and finished reading in less than 24 hours this moving compilation of remembrances of a disparate and representative sampling of American fathers.

Tim Russert was inspired to write this book based on the avalanche of e-mails and letters he received in response to his book about his own father, “Big Russ & Me.” From among the 60,000 reminiscences he received from men and women chronicling their relationships with their fathers, Russert selected a few hundred that resonated with him most profoundly.

Here are a few samplings that I found particularly poignant:

“While the biological act of fathering entails no real commitment, the ongoing process of daddying requires a lifelong commitment to your children. But it’s never too late to begin the process of becoming the father you want to be, the one you always wished you had.” Allan Shedlin, Jr., son of Allan Shedlin (Page 106)

What an encouraging perspective! I am sure I share with most fathers some regrets over parenting mistakes and transgressions. I know I have hurt my sons over the years with sins of commission and omission, and Mr. Shedlin’s words of hope are challenging as well as heartening.

“One by one, my siblings shared their own memories of Dad praying at his chair . . . For some reason, each of us thought we were the only one who ever saw Dad doing this. For each is us, the sight of this man humbling himself before God, and very likely praying on our behalf, was a cherished memory." Julie Miller, daughter of Jeremiah Gerald Foley (Pages 120-121)

In a few hours, I will head up I-93 and then will wend my way via some winding back roads to tiny Barrington, New Hampshire, where I will end my Fathers’ Day surrounded by my eldest son, Ti, his wife, Ralu, and their two adorable children. In a few weeks, the whole clan will descend on my brother’s home in Lynchburg, Virginia for a family reunion of four generations of Chases. In addition to the contingent from New England, my son, Chris, will come from Arizona and my son, Tim, will arrive from Poland. In a recent e-mail, Tim was making arrangements to be picked up at the airport in Boston. Among Tim’s closing remarks were the following words that went straight to this father’s heart:

“So what are the chances of catching a Sox game? This is obviously very high up on my list of priorities.”

Over the years, all four of my sons have been gracious in accommodating my passion for the Red Sox, often accompanying me to games, and indulging me as I would watch the games on TV and listen on the car radio. But Tim is the only one of the four who truly caught the “bug” and is equally infected with Red Sox fever, a chronic and often debilitating condition for which there is no known cure! So, it was timely and apt when I read last night this quotation and my final excerpt from the Russert’s book:

“A baseball stadium through a child’s eyes is about as good as it gets, with the green, green grass that goes on forever. What a day – with Max and a good friend watching a great pastime. Sitting with your son inside a ballpark is almost a religious experience.” (Page 130)


And so the wheel cycles all the way around and returns to the starting point. In the opening of my sharing these thoughts on Fathers’ Day, I mentioned my father and grandfathers. One of my most vivid memories of my Grandfather Champoux - “Bampy,” as he was affectionately known to me and to my brother and sister – takes me back to the summer when I was seven years old. I was already a rabid Sox fan – having arrived at that state through both “nature and nurture”! But I had not yet made the long trip down Route 1 to Fenway Park. We did not have a lot of money to spend on such frivolities on those days. But my grandfather worked as a supervisor in a shoe factory in Haverhill, and occasionally one of the vendors would give him a couple of tickets. So, one summer evening in 1954, with the mediocre Red Sox firmly ensconced in fourth place in the American League, I rode with Bampy to Boston to attend my first game at Fenway Park. I recall as vividly as if it were an hour ago the overwhelming sensations as he grasped my hand in his hand – rough and calloused from years of cutting leather on the factory floor – and led me up the ramp to the Emerald City-like splendor of Fenway’s interior. Updike’s “lyric little bandbox of a ballpark,” reached out and enfolded the little boy from Newburyport in its verdant embrace – and has never since let go.

Sitting there again next week with Tim in Section 20 will re-ignite those memories and emotions. And it will be another – somewhat belated, but not at all diminished – Fathers’ Day gift.

I am blessed.

Happy Fathers’ Day!

1 comment:

scott said...

Glad you enjoyed the book!