Son, Im Proud of You
Each year when Fathers Day approaches,
Im reminded of the most important words my
father ever said to me.
The year was 1984, I was 27 years old, between
journalism jobs, living just a few blocks from the
small Miami Beach apartment my paternal grandfather
had set up after his retirement. It was the first
time in my life that Grandpa was close-by, and
along with meals of pot roast and potatoes, I
soaked up the stories of his harrowing childhood in
Eastern Europe, desperate emigration, and eclectic
life that spanned the century.
Then one day I got a phone call from a doctor.
"I'm sorry to tell you this," came the voice, "but
your grandfather has had a heart attack, and he has
The next day, my father flew to south Florida
from his home in Michigan. I picked him up at the
airport, and we drove in silence to the hospital to
identify Grandpa's body, collect his watch and
wallet, and make arrangements to ship the body
north for burial at my grandmother's side.
Then my father turned the key to my
grandfather's home, and we began sorting the
material remnants of the old man's life. We
discovered curled black-and-white photos from the
early years, key-chains from more recent times,
passbooks, matchbooks, coins, coupons, and a pack
of stale generic cigarettes. Working in different
rooms, we'd occasionally exclaim to each other
about a special find. Mostly we sorted in
We kept at it until the glow of the afternoon
sun had waned. Then my father and I collapsed in my
grandfather's heavily pillowed living-room chairs,
glasses of the old mans scotch in hand. We
shared memories for awhile, then quiet. Finally, as
the room faded into near-total darkness, I heard a
guttural groan. At first, I was startled. Then I
realized what was happening. I had never before
heard my father cry.
I rose, and knelt by his side. After a couple of
minutes, he spoke. "I am crying not only for my
father, but for me," he said. "His death means I'll
never hear the words I've always wanted to hear
from him: that he was proud of me, proud of the
family I'd raised and the life I've lived."
And then my father directed his voice toward me,
and he uttered the words that continue to resound.
"So that you never have to feel this way too," he
said, "I want to tell you now how proud I am of
you, of the choices you've made, of the life you've
Much of the pain that is inherent in father-son
relationships dissolved for me in the calming
resonance of that blessing. And in the months that
followed, I felt stronger, more confident,
especially as I re-started my career.
In the years since my fathers
pronouncement, Ive discovered that
father-pride is a prominent theme in many
father-son relationships. Our mothers can shape us
in myriad ways, but it is generally our fathers
from whom we seek a blessing.
So this Fathers Day, as we fathers accept
gifts from our sons, let us remember the gift that
so many of them desire, but will not request.
Simple words, expressed sincerely: Son,
Im proud of you.
* * *
years, Neil Chethik has made it his goal to find
out what men really think -- about family,
relationships, fathering, aging, sex, and more. He
is the author of two best-selling books,
(Hyperion) and VoiceMale
(Simon & Schuster). Hes been a nationally
syndicated columnist, a big-hall speaker, and now,
the national medias go-to guy for what men
really think about their everyday lives. Contact:
Neil Chethik, P.O. Box 8071, Lexington, KY 40533 or
859.361.1659 or E-Mail
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