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Column:The Gray Line Tour

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / June 8, 1998

Honor Thy Parents

Recently, we at L’Observateur have been working on a special section having to do with Father’s Day, coming up at the end of the month. Alongthe way, I suggested staff members bring in childhood photos of themselves with their fathers. Rebecca Burk Ellis, for instance brought inan utterly charming photo of herself as a very young child, seated with her late father, clowning for the camera in Halloween garb.

It gave me an opportunity to flip through my own photo album, recall how frightening I looked in the 1970s with my bushy beard, long, thick hair and cold, Charles Manson expression. Then I dug out my childhood photos andfound one of myself on the lap of a cousin in the Petrified Forest out west, crying my eyes out. I found a photo of myself, a scrawny 12-year-old,posing at Four Corners, where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado come together at one point.

Then I found one photo of myself with my dad and two brothers. I wasabout a year old, or less. I was still in diapers and could not stand on myown. Pop was wearing some sort of wide-brimmed fedora and holding meupright by my hands. My brothers, Jim and Johnny, flanked me, smiling forthe camera as only an 8-year-old and 6-year-old can do – utterly guileless.

It’s a touching photo, since my parents divorced about five years after that photo and I was raised in Luling by my dad’s sister and brother-in- law. He came to see me as often as he could and I spent at least part ofevery summer with him. He had it rough, and I know he missed me terribly,as I did him.

I feel fortunate, because I essentially grew up with a mother (my aunt) and two fathers (my uncle and my dad). I adjusted to it fairly well and Ilove all of them dearly. In recent years, I’ve also been able to re-establishfraternal bonds with my brothers, and we all genuinely like one another and enjoy each other’s company. My cousin is also a brother to me, and Ivalue and esteem him as much or more than my own “birth” brothers.

However, my dad and I have a special bond that time and distance cannot change, and it’s painful to think so many people do not have such a bond.

Sometimes, fathers are absent. Sometimes, fathers are simply not gooddads. I never feel I’ve done enough for all three of my parents, though, andI am grateful for everything they’ve done for me.

Like many children, I put my parents through a lot, emotionally. There havebeen good time and rough times, but never bad times. I knew, no matterwhat was going on, that they loved me and continue to love me.

I grew up in a physically-affectionate family, so I hug my parents, without restraint or shame. I’m continually astonished that this is notcommon practice for everyone. I think those people miss out on a lot.So, as Father’s Day approaches on June 21, think about both your parents and, if so worthy, honor them. More of that good feeling needs to bepromoted in this troubled world and it all begins at home.

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