kind to thy father, for when thou wert young,
Who loved thee so fondly as he?
He caught the first accents that fell from thy tongue,
And joined in thy innocent glee.
~ Margaret Courtney
Breakfast: Some Kellog Berry cereal
The Elegant Gathering
TODAY on DVD
A SPECIAL MAN
20 June 2004
Any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a Dad.
It was 11 p.m. on April 25, 1966 when I was admitted to the labor room. In those days, Kaiser was not allowing fathers in the delivery room and the whole concept of fathers participating in the birth of their babies was fairly new (in fact, Dr. G was one of the pioneers during those years). Walt stayed with me until they took me to the delivery room, where Jeri was born fairly quickly, for a breech baby. It was 1:46 a.m., April 26, according to her birth certificate.
They took me to the recovery room and I expected Walt to be there, since they had told me in the delivery room that someone would tell him. At 3 a.m., I finally asked the nurse if anyone had told him of the babys birth. No one had. He was panicking, thinking something had gone wrong, while I was relaxing and having something to drink in the recovery room.
I was afraid that hed be disappointed that his firstborn wasnt a son. We had been speaking about "him" for months, calling "him" "Eletherius," so nobody would know that, boy or girl, the baby would be either Jerry or Jeri. But he was absolutely beaming. He hadnt even seen his daughter yet and already he was in love with her.
Walt took to fatherhood the way a duck takes to water. He worshipped Jeri and they had a wonderful relationship
There have been many times through the years, when I read about the very special bond between daughters and fathers and watch the special bond between Jeri and Walt that I get a little wistful at what I missed. My father was a father; he never was a Dad.
Kids have always loved Walt. I guess its because hes still a kid at heart, even at 64. When we would get together with our Newman friends, and all 22 kids, Walt would be the Dad down on all fours giving pony rides, or playing with blocks or in some other way interacting with the kids while the adults where chatting.
He was active in the fathers club in the nursery schools, leading up the work crew, setting fire to Tiny Tots (but thats another story...). He went camping with 30 nursery school kids ("I want my Daddy!" "What's your Daddy's name?" "Daddy!") They raced to the door when he came home at night. He carried them to bed each night, piggy back.
As the kids got older, he was involved in everything they did. He absolutely loved being the Little League coach, the diving judge ("You count the sommersaults and Ill count the turns"), the chaparone for all the school trips. He was at every game, every concert, every play, every back to school night. He wore feathers in his head in Indian Guides. He supervised (though didn't take over) making cars for Boy Scout car races.
When the kids got involved with theatre, he learned how to build sets and could often be seen with a crew of munchkins all wielding hammers building the set for the next show.
We were at the first concert that Lawsuit gave, and almost every concert within driving distance throughout its 10 year history. Even when I didnt feel like going, Walt would go. He loved listening to the kids, loved watching them perform. He was so incredibly proud of their success.
He even did his own stage dive at the memorial concert they did after David died. Tom and his friends dared him to do it. Paul had already arranged for Walt to come up and do a brief solo (he is not a singer, but this was a special concert). Tom suggested that after he finish his part, that he dive into the audience, and promised the he and his friends wouldnt drop him. Nobody but Walt, Tom and Toms friends knew and it was the only time I ever saw Paul speechless on stage, as Walt dove off the stage into Toms waiting arms and was carried out to the cheers of the crowd. He was 56 at the time.
There is no Dad who is as passionately in love with his kids as Walt. Davids and Pauls deaths broke his heart.
He was so incredibly happy and proud last year at Toms wedding. I loved watching him with the now adult sons...
and especially watching him and Jeri, tears in their eyes, as they watched Tom and Laurel take their first dance.
On this fathers day, I look back over the last 39 years and at the kind of father Walt has been--and continues to be today. He has given our kids unconditional love, boundless enthusiasm, constant support, and the very special relationship that only a father can give.
Happy Fathers Day, Dear. We all love you.