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Happy Father's Day, Dad

June 14, 2008 - John Whittaker

Tim Russert died of a heart attack Friday. He was 58.

That's right -- 58, the same age as my dad.

It's a pretty sobering thought on this Father's Day.

For much of my childhood, my dad and I lived about six hours apart. He and my mom divorced when I was little, though they remained friends. Dad would spend most of his vacations at our house, often making it out for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas morning. When we could, my sister Beckie and I would spend a week of summer vacation visiting dad in Norwich. One year, I spent almost the whole summer with Dad.

And, to my younger brother and sister, who were born after my mom remarried, he's just Uncle John, a guy they can ask questions of, who always brought Christmas presents for them every year and who'd come and cheer for them at sporting events when he was in town.

In the middle of a week, he managed to be able to attend Senior Night for my last home game at Panama, the only game I started in my life. I was walked to center court by all three of my parents, which, the more I think about it, was pretty special.

The story of a broken home this is not. We might not have had all the money in the world, and things were interesting at times with a lot of strong-willed people living in our house, but there are worse things in the world for a teen-ager than having three parents who cared about you and who you could turn to when life got confusing.

Compared to a lot of the stories I've heard in this job over the last 10 years, I considered myself pretty lucky.

About five years ago, about a year after my stepfather, John, died, Dad moved to the Jamestown area from Norwich.

While we've always had a close relationship, since he moved here, we've gotten closer. We share an apartment, which, let me tell you, is a great way to save money for a wedding.

But, more than the money I'm putting away, it's allowed me to have the sort of relationship with my dad I couldn't necessarily have with 300 miles and a vast expanse of Interstate 86 between us. We used to talk on the phone at least once a week, usually not going more than a couple of weeks without talking. Now, we talk every day, sometimes for only 5 minutes since our schedules are pretty much exact opposites.

I remember a trip while I was in our Sports Department. Maple Grove had advanced to the final four of the state baseball playoffs, which were being played in Rome, N.Y. I drove out in our little Ford Festiva and stayed at Dad's, which was about a half-hour or 40-minute drive to the ballpark.

The first night I was there, I was all excited because I was going to take my dad to dinner - at Subway (I was only a part-time sportwriter, after all). The second night, we rented a movie and ate popcorn. It might not have been dinner and a ballgame at Yankee Stadium, but it was a lot of fun.

Compare that excitement to now, when dinner with Dad is common and dinner with my  mom is cause for excitement. How easy it is to forget.

So, today, the News Gal and I'll give Dad our Fathers' Day presents. I'll appreciate how good I really have it - two loving parents, the News Gal, a good job, a nice roof over my head, and hopefully some really, really good cake.

Happy Fathers' Day, Dad. And thanks.

 
 

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