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Monday, December 4, 2023
Dec. 4, 2023

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Press Talk: To all those complicated dads

By , Columbian Editor
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My dad was a special kind of complicated. Back in 2001, when he died, I wrote this tribute. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.

My dad could work a phone better than anyone I know. He could track down stock prices, the weather, old friends, the price of tamales … and me.

My dad could have worked for a newspaper, always asking questions, always wondering what was going on, always needing to know “why.” I was thinking very much about my dad the other day and realized that my dad (maybe yours, too) and newspapers are very much alike.

Newspapers can be tough

So could my dad. Before they invented TV remote controls, they invented me. I could have been upstairs in our home in Chicago, and he could have been downstairs watching TV. When the channel needed to be changed, he’d yell upstairs and I’d be on my way. It’s the way I kept my boyish figure.

Newspapers can be giving

So could my dad. As a beginning reporter in Florida, there was no way I could afford to buy a home. With a student loan, a car loan, apartment rent, a wife and $150-a-week salary, I could barely make it.

But I knew renting was just throwing money away. My dad, who had moved to Florida, suggested I build a home and be the general contractor for it. Eliminating the general contractor would save money and make it possible for me to become a homeowner.

But being a general contractor means you have to know something about the business. I didn’t know an anvil from an ax. Fortunately, my dad did. So he really did all the work. When it was over, I had a home. My dad had come through again.

Newspapers can be funny

So could my dad. Long ago, when I was single and a bit crazy, I had some friends visit me in Florida. They were single and a bit crazy, too. My dad, who knew lots of people who knew lots of people, offered to set one of my friends up with a date. When my buddy came back, I asked him how the date went. “She was an ex-nun,” he said. “All she did was pray.”

Yep, my dad was a real piece of work. Complicated, intense, awkward at times, smooth other times, unforgiving one moment and emotional the next. Just like newspapers.

A few days ago, he died, somewhat unexpectedly. In the end, he was alone. My brother, Dan, had lived in California for years. And I had left the nest, too. My sister, Danette, who lived 10 minutes away from Dad in Florida, was on vacation at the time.

But he really wasn’t alone. He had recently joined a Christian fellowship and made more friends. Plus, he always had that phone. When they found him, he was sitting up on the couch in his living room. His trusted phone was just a foot away.

At his service in Florida, I slipped a phone calling card into a pocket of his suit. If there’s a phone where he’s at now, he’ll find it. Just like a good reporter would.

Love you, Dad.


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