Sometimes when you ask a man who grew up without a father about his dad, he will immediately talk about his mother. He’ll talk about her strength and her sacrifice in having to play both roles. Sometimes he’ll even say that she was so good at it, that he didn’t know what he was missing.
Not Anderson Cooper. In his 2006 book, Dispatches from the Edge, he wrote:
“Sometimes I wonder if I’m the person I was born to be, if the life I’ve lived really is the one I was meant to, or if it is some half life, a mutation engineered by loss, cobbled together by the will to survive.”
Yesterday, on his new daytime television talk show, he interviewed his 87 year old mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. Now, apart from his infectious giggle, this serious news anchor is usually pretty composed. What brought tears to his eyes on this day were memories of his father, who died when he was 10, and specifically, his mother telling him his dad would have been so proud of the man he became and his accomplishments.
The interview also covers the suicide of his brother.
Some people like to criticize Mr. Cooper for aspects of his personal life he doesn’t talk about but I think it’s more important that he has never shied away from discussing his father and brother and the impact their loss has had on his life. It takes courage but it helps others in immeasurable ways to use your public platform for the good.
Watch the show here.
Last month the Globe & Mail had a series of articles on so-called failing boys, causes, solutions. One reaction to the series was by a young, Toronto student who wrote this illuminating article:
This insightful youth also contributed an article to the Toronto Star a few years back:
It’s not a predicament any boy wants to be in, but good to know there is an awareness and some great role models out there for lonely boys.
On a day like today we are inundated with happy, heart-felt stories about fathers and their kids. But it’s important to remember too, that not all relationships have been full of sunshine and light. It’s a tough day for some fathers and sons out there, a relationship that is vital but sometimes rife with complications. Here are a few news stories out this week and today for Father’s Day:
We Need Fathers to Step Up, by Barack Obama
I recently received a comment from a gentleman who found this site looking for resources and help and came away disappointed by the lack of it here. (you can see his comment on this site and I encourage engagement with him or me upon reading).
As I explained to him and I hope he understands, this is a fairly new site, created in tandem with a book on which I am working which will present stories by Canadian male writers who have lost their fathers through death; through abandonment due to divorce or separation; or through emotional absence. What I mean to do is provide a jumping off point for comments, thoughts, stories, and a sharing of resources from men to other men, or the women who love and support them.
What I have yet to do, and I will correct that with this post, is to provide the background materials that I used when researching this topic. Some of the books were help guides, written by psychologists, others were stories of fathers and sons that somehow illuminate the issues, resolve them, or just provide insight.
This topic is close to my heart for many reasons, particularly because I have seen too many men in my life, and in general, in pain due to father-loss. I have this idea that a place like this could help to ease the pain a little by providing an open forum for discussion, sharing and also by guiding those who happen upon this site to information that they can use in a practical way.
My commenter thought maybe I was exploiting this topic in order to sell books. I have no connection to the books I recommend here. Upon such time as my own book is published I will of course recommend it because of the important and necessary to tell stories contained within. I am not the writer of said book – I am well aware I don’t qualify by virtue of not being a son without a father. I am the collector and editor of the stories only.
Lately, I have come to believe strongly that men get short shrift in our society and so part of my purpose with this website as well is to be a repository for interesting and insightful books, news articles, stories, websites, etc that address the issues that men regularly deal with, beyond the father/son topic.
Here now though, is my father/son research list, which I am always on the look out to expand. So please feel free to write me with your finds.
A Wolf at the Table, Augusten Burroughs, St. Martin’s Press, 2008
Dispatches from the Edge, Anderson Cooper, Harper Collins, 2006
WIth the Boys: Field Notes on Being a Guy, Jake MacDonald, Greystone Books, 2005
Fatherloss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads, Neil Chethik, Hyperion, 2001
In the Shadow of a Saint, Ken Wiwa, Vintage Canada, 2001
Summer Gone, David McFarlane, VIntage Canada, 2000
The Closer We Are to Dying, Joe Fiorito, McClelland & Stewart, 1999
Motion Sickness, David Layton, McFarlane Walter & Ross, 1999
Fathers & Sons, Alberto Manguel, Raincoast Books, 1998
Understanding Men’s Passages, Gail Sheehy, Random House, 1998
I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Legacy of Male Depression, Terrence Real, Simon & Schuster, 1997
The Prodigal Father: Reuniting Fathers with Their Children, Mark Bryan, 1997
The Loss That is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father, Maxine Harris, Ph.D, Dutton, 1995
Father-Son Healing: An Adult Son’s Guide, Joseph Ilardo, Ph.D, New Harbinger Publications Inc., 1993
Iron John: A Book About Men, Robert Bly, Vintage, 1992