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Jack Zaleski, Published June 16 2012

Zaleski: A good, if hard, Father’s Day lesson

After experiencing more than six decades of Father’s Days, my view of fatherhood has taken on several aspects: son, father and grandfather. Perspectives changed with the years. It’s a work in progress for men of my generation, of all generations, I suppose.

A son’s perception of his dad sharpens or softens or hardens as the son becomes a father and, if he’s lucky, a grandfather. The relationship between father and son can be tense and angry. But over time, as the son becomes a father, lights go on in his young head. He begins to see his father in the context of his new fatherhood and the pressures that come with it. The maturing son, however reluctantly, begins to know what the old man was going through when their relationship went south.

My dad died when I was in high school, so I really never got to know him. I was a kid and afflicted with the stupidity and foolishness that afflicts all kids. When I sift through the nostalgia of the good times I had with him (and there were many), I realize how much I missed because he was gone before he could know my wife and his grandchildren. He never got to know his only son as college student, a father and a successful journalist. I never had the chance to understand how much he loved his work as a printer; what caused the anger that was fired by alcohol; why, when his health collapsed, he didn’t take care of himself.

That part of life’s slate is missing a chapter. What I learned about him from his brothers and my mother was never enough. But in an ironic way, his absence might have helped me to grow into fatherhood. Not perfectly, but better.

When it comes to kids, it’s not about “quality time” or other such psycho-babble. It’s about any time. It’s about more time. It’s about just being with the kids – in the kitchen, in the yard, anywhere – doing nothing more than being with them. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all formula for being a good dad. But making as much time as possible for them has to be part of it.

So on this Father’s Day, I know what I missed when my dad left the scene early. I like to believe he knows it was a good, if hard, lesson.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.