“Daddy” (Part one of four)

Anderson Cooper made his first appearance on Oprah shortly after his new book was released.  On that day, this vetern newsman did not look comfortable.  Yet, I could hardly take my eyes off the television screen.   

In May, I was in Austin at a seminar and managed to slip away to work out at Town Lake YMCA.  In the cardio-room, I rode a stationary bike.   On the wall, were three televisions, each one set to a different station.  The sound had been turned off but the close captioning was on.   I followed his words closely.

For the first time, Cooper was talking publicly about the death of his father and the suicide of his brother.  His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, was in the studio audience.  Oprah asked both Cooper and his mother questions.  He relayed the details of the deaths of his dad and brother.  For some reason, I was riveted to this exchange. 

During May and June, I purchased three books to read during July (when I would be away on vacation and study break).  I did not realize until this afternoon that each one of those books had to do with fathers.  The books I purchased?

I did not intentionally set out to purchase three books that would deal with fathers (Cooper’s book deals with this far less than the other two).  Earlier this month, I read the Miller and Russert books.  Still, it was not until this afternoon that I realized the link between all three books.  I am not sure why I purchased books with this theme.  I do think it is interesting.

For now, let me quote from Cooper’s book regarding his father:

I didn’t know it was going to happen.  I guess kids never do.  I was ten.  My father was fifty.  That seemed old at the time; now its frighteningly young.  My father died on an operating table at New York Hospital while undergoing heart bypass surgery.  January 5, 1978.  That was the date.  I still mark it on my calendar every year.  I should celebrate his birthday, of course, gather together friends who knew him, tell stories, keep his memory alive.  Twenty-seven years later, it’s still too painful even to try.  Too raw.  The nerves are still exposed.  For years I tried to swaddle the pain, encase the feelings.  I boxed them up along with my father’s papers, stored them away, promising one day to sort them all out.  All I managed to do was deaden myself to them, detach myself from life

The day my father died, my life restarted.  The person who I was disappeared, washed away by the turn of the tide

Wow…How many people can identify with these feelings?

I will say more later.  For now, let me tell you that reading these three books has given me a renewed appreciation for what I am to be about as a dad.

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10 thoughts on ““Daddy” (Part one of four)

  1. Cooper’s comments seem to reflect the joyous, childlike idealism and idealization that, as young boys, we normally have about our fathers. If fathers are not taken from us prematurely, we gradually and gently learn that they really can’t beat up everybody else’s dad or fix any problem we might have. But, when we lose them when we are younger, fathers remain giants on a pedestal, enduring as unreal beings that we veritably worship in their absence.

    Cooper’s writing also reveals a yearning for the Perfect Father. As an adult, I’m sure he has a cognitive grasp of the foibles and fallibilities of his earthly father. But the yearning and longing for the Perfect – of which our biological fathers are but shadows – remains and pulls at his boyish heart.

    It is sad to read that twenty-seven years later he is still unable to deal with the enormous loss. For him, I suspect, the day his father died was also the day that God – or the hope of God – also died.

    He needs a friend to walk with him through the valley of the shadow of his father’s death. Tragically, it may be almost impossible for him to find a believer who will compassionately and patiently sit with him and listen to him as he pours out his still-broken heart. Only then, through compassionate caring, will the listener thereby earn (through love) the right to someday tenderly tell him of a Father who will not fail, disappoint or – perhaps most importantly for Anderson – leave him.

  2. Those words reverberate to my core. I’ve shared that pain and despair, with the loss of my Dad. He was 47, I was 15. Twenty four years later, the pain is still there. One learns to keep it at bay, but the milestones in the lives of my children that my Dad can’t share, and those I’ll see that he never shared with me, bring it to the surface. It’s more of an ache now than the sharp pain it once was. God is very present for me now, and He’s brought men of wisdom into my life to help fill the void. But, there’s always a longing to pick up the phone and say “Hey Daddy, what do you think about……?”

  3. I, too, share this pain. I was 6, he was 38. Now that I am a parent of 2, I look at things very differently. You realize you may never have tomorrow, so I try to live my best life today.

  4. Sometimes the price of love is pain. When my father died, almost 17 years ago, it was as if someone I knew well had died but there was very little emotional loss. Sometimes I think I would rather have the pain than the emotional numbness. Perhaps there are advantages to both. I hope my children feel some pain at my death, but that it is overshadowed by the hope of resurrection!

  5. Greg,
    You have touched on something very important. I think you have the ear of many people when you speak of rather having “the pain than the emotional numbness.”

    I think many people who have an emotional “dis-connect” with family members wonder what this will feel like when that person dies.

    Thanks for what you said.

  6. Mark,
    Thanks for this. I’ve heard you express some of this. But, you say it so well in this comment.

    I apprecite you and suspect that others will resonate with your words.

  7. Mike,
    I really like the phrase you use–“…a longing for the Perfect.”

    I think my own longing for God involes a “longing for the perfect.” Human beings always disappoint and frustrate. Only the one who is perfect is able to satisfy. I’ve learned that the hard way. Thanks.

  8. Whatever else Cooper’s quote conveys, it certainly reminds us of the horror of death and its lasting effect. Thank God that He’s taken away the sting in the resurrection of Jesus. But the creation is still groaning (evident in Cooper’s pain-filled words) in anticipation of renewal.