The Thinking 

Tribute to a Father

June 17, 2012


ALAN writes:

My father was an ordinary, patriotic American working man. He grew up in the 1920s, was an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II, and a loyal Catholic throughout his life. He understood that certain things are sacred and never open to negotiation. He knew that “No” is one of the most important words in life. He always played by the rules. His character would never allow him to play any other way.

Self-discipline, hard work, responsibility, self-restraint, and loyalty were the essence of his character. Decency was his middle name. In all my life, I never heard him use a profane word or expression. He enjoyed life but was no cockeyed optimist. He had no illusions about the follies and foolishness of most human beings. He had no use for the speed and busyness of modern life. He looked upon rock “music” as several grades below noise. He was certainly no Modernist. He never read a word of what Richard Weaver wrote. But he shared a profound distrust of what Professor Weaver called the “hysterical optimism” so typical of Modernists, i.e., the delusion that they are going to make the world over with “new ideas” and “new solutions” because they are so much “better informed” than those who preceded them. My father knew that Modernists usually make things worse by abandoning long-established ideas and principles.

He appreciated some advances in technology – radio, medicine, aviation – but he never worshipped technology. If some parts of American culture were on their way into the gutter, he believed that modern technology would only take them there faster.

One thing I especially recall is his razor-sharp assessment of the 1960s Leftist Revolution at the time it was going on. He opposed it in its entirety. He believed that that Revolution was being engineered by well-trained Leftist agitprop artists, many working in plain sight but the more powerful ones working behind the scenes. Of course he was right.

Senator Barry Goldwater was his man in the 1964 presidential election. I like to imagine how much better our country and culture would be today – morally and militarily – if enough Americans had shared his preference that year. But they didn’t. They voted instead for Lyndon Johnson’s big-government do-gooder propaganda, and the moral path of American culture has been downward ever since.

He dressed as most American men did in an age now long vanished: As men, not overgrown boys. He wore serious hats befitting men. The sight of grown men wearing baseball caps, blue jeans, and T-shirts with messages would have struck him as ridiculous.

Like most of his contemporaries, my father had one telephone in his life. Astonishingly, he always left home without it yet managed to live for 87 years. Nothing would have seemed sillier to him than the sight of men and women chattering into their cell phone-toys while walking along city streets, crossing busy intersections, sitting in restaurants, and shopping for groceries. Most likely he would remember a line from Emerson about who is in the saddle: Men or their inventions. He would see clearly that Modernists do not control their toys and gadgets; their toys and gadgets control them.

His heroes included Charles Lindbergh and Douglas MacArthur, entertainers Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and newspapermen Ernie Pyle, Mike Royko, and James J. Kilpatrick. Dance band music of the 1930s-‘40s was his preferred listening and dancing pleasure. To him, the marriage of music, lyrics, and story in the musical plays “Show Boat,” “The Music Man,” and “Mame” was an achievement of extraordinary beauty and a source of repeated enjoyment.

Baseball was his favorite game for 80 years, from the days when he played it as a boy with his classmates to the last months of his life when he still enjoyed listening to it on radio.

Ordinary moments and simple pleasures are what linger in my memories of him: How he taught me to play baseball when I was a boy; how he would buy snow cones for all the boys on the playground on any given summer evening; standing with him under a starlit summer sky; walking together along city streets on bitterly-cold winter days; dining out at a favorite cafeteria; enjoying a glass of orange juice and plate of chocolate chip cookies at the kitchen table; talking and arguing for hours about moral philosophy, language, and science; and listening often to two bittersweet songs we especially enjoyed: 1970’s “For the Good Times” and 1931’s timeless ballad “Home (When Shadows Fall).”

I never owed my father a thing – except my eternal gratitude for his loyalty, love, and wisdom.


— Comments—-

Carolyn writes:

Alan could be talking about my father, except that Daddy was a life-long Baptist, college football was his game, and lemonade was his drink. Thank you (both) for a lovely Father’s Day tribute.

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