Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Opinion

Dan Ruth: Years after his death, Dad still influences

He died way too young. Just 53. Or put another way, my father has been dead for well more than twice my own life. My mother often notes that she has been a widow longer than she was a wife. Too young.

And yet …

This is supposed to be a day in honor of fatherhood. And to be sure there are many attributes to being a good dad. Many of you no doubt have strong, fond memories of your own father. Good times, good times indeed.

My father was not Ward Cleaver. He didn't camp. He didn't fish. I have zero memory of ever playing catch with him. He didn't attend my football games or track meets. Although he did show up when I had the lead in my high school musical and was probably shocked to discover to his own tone-deaf ears that his son could carry a tune.

But he was also there in so many other ways.

What my father did was work. And he worked hard to provide for his family. He had his own business designing large industrial heating and air-conditioning systems. Not very sexy. But very demanding. And so he often wasn't around much for the mundane family events of everyday life.

He could be gruff and opinionated. He was almost always fun — unless he had to be told I had tossed my less-than-stellar report card into the sewer. Not a good idea.

But as I grew older, I learned more about him. This was a guy who paid another man's mortgage when he had fallen on hard times. This was a man who was only a phone call away when help was needed. This was a father who adhered to that old-fashioned view that a handshake was truly as good as your bond.

Not a bad role model.

I suppose there are all manner of benchmarks to sum up what defines a quality fatherhood. Here's mine.

My father died more than 35 years ago. I am now 62. And I am still trying not to disappoint him. Throughout my life when confronted with a problem or a decision, I asked myself he would have done. Almost four decades in the grave, and he's still a powerful influence.

I came late to fatherhood. I was in my early 40s when I married the Bombshell of the Balkans. It was a package deal that came with two small boys.

I had no idea what to do, how to be a father. So I relied heavily on the tombstone down in Naples.

He was strict, so I was strict. And I learned that sometimes he was wrong. And sometimes I was wrong. After all, if I often rebelled against the iron hand, why wasn't I surprised when my boys did the same thing?

Unlike my own parents, we never spanked or physically disciplined the boys. Instead we made them write essays: "Why my room is a pig sty," "Why I treated my mother with disrespect," "Why I have yet to learn to flush a toilet" — an especially fine topic. They hated it. But both grew into young men who are very good writers.

I think my father would approve.

He has been in that plot since 1977. I rarely visit. Why should I when he's right there looking over my shoulder?

He was pretty good at advice. So much to draw upon, but my favorite counsel was the tidbit he offered as I prepared to go off to college in 1968.

"I want you to study hard and do well and make something of yourself," he said. Yes, sir.

"But also remember to have fun." Yes, sir. And I did.

I hope he would have approved.

Comments
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17