Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert: son of a father, father of a son

What a sad Father's Day this will be for young Luke Russert, who just graduated from Boston College. Father's Day has always played a poor second to Mother's Day in almost every respect: nowhere near the volume of phone calls, cards, or present-buying. The sentiment that surrounds mothers in American culture obscures the surpassing importance of the father in the life of a son. Tim Russert's father, "Big Russ," a sanitation worker and truck driver, was his son's hero. We may be certain that Luke, bereft as he is, will pass on the traits that are being celebrated on television today, none of them more important than the fatherly role that Tim Russert played in the lives of younger colleagues and, especially, the children of colleagues.

A few days ago I cut out a full-page ad for the magazine, Cigar Aficionado, obviously timed for Father's Day. "Compelling journalism for men with refined taste," it says, and then lists its attractions: Drinks, Golf, Watches, Auctions, Gambling, Travel, Cars, Fashion, Resorts, Art, Toys...and, of course, Cigars." It was that "Toys" that really got me. Men just aren't supposed to be grown up. No wonder there is a crisis in boy's education.

I have always been sad that my father never had a son, not because I wanted a brother particularly (my sister is gift enough), but because my father would have been such a wonderful father to a son. Warm, affectionate, wise, nurturing, and always teaching; respected by everyone, a source of advice and help to many; pillar of the church and trusted adviser to its clergy. We didn't celebrate Father's Day or Mother's Day in our family, but if we had, there was not one thing on the Aficionado list that my father would have wanted as a present, except maybe Art--he bought a few humble prints in his day. (Well, he certainly liked Drinks, too, and Travel, but not the kind that Aficionado has in mind.) He had one nice watch, all anyone needs. He liked to receive books and we gave him a lot of books. Most of all he liked to receive and give love to family and friends. It is seriously alarming that our culture gives so little recognition to these defining characteristics of real manhood.

It is this quality of fathering, above all, that we should remember about Tim Russert.