By Brian DeLuca, Roland Park Branch
It was two months before my twelfth birthday when my father died. It was September 11th, a date that would mean tragedy for my family, decades before it had meaning for the rest of the world. It’s an odd thing to lose a parent so early in life. You spend years looking for someone to fill that role in your life, often never finding anyone to replace your lost loved one.
Throughout my life, this sense of emptiness has defined my ideas of fatherhood and male relationships; because of this, when I’m asked to recommend books for Father’s Day, some rather unconventional choices come to mind:
Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam – This biography gets me on a lot of levels: the Space Race, life in a town split between white collar managers and blue collar workers so much like my own hometown, and the complexity of the father-son dynamic. This is a perfect example of a male rite of passage, where a young man has to stand up to a domineering father to pursue his own dreams.
The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer – Moehringer’s father was a New York City radio DJ; despite having a presence in his life as “the voice” on his radio, his father had no actual relationship with him. Desperate for a father-figure, Moehringer turns to his uncle and the characters at his local bar. He eventually meets his father, with the inevitable heartbreak that entails, and he comes to realize the sacrifices his mother for him.
Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley – This is the incredible story of the Battle of Iwo Jima and is, at its core, a memorial from a loving son to his father. After Bradley’s father died, he discovered that his father was one of the men pictured in the famous flag raising on Mt. Suribachi. Bradley tells the tale of this vicious battle and of what happened to the five men from that famous scene.
Finding Fish by Antwone Fisher – How does a book about the child of a single mother end up on a Father’s Day reading list? It is because of the man the author became. Fisher grew up in Cleveland in the foster care system. Abused, often homeless, on the fast track to prison, and desperately short of male role-models, he turned his life around when he joined the Navy. I met him years later, spending three days driving him around Cleveland-area libraries. By then, Fisher was a loving husband and incredibly devoted father, and, more importantly, he was someone highly conscious of the impact he could have as a role-model to kids in a similar situation. His story is heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant -- a boy without a father who becomes a man to be admired.
No matter your personal story, as individuals, we are defined by more than just our experiences or our relationships, we are defined by what we choose to do and who we choose to be.