An essay for my father
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I lost my father seven years ago this month; actually right before Father’s Day. I have thought about him every day since.
My father encouraged me to think, and to think big thoughts. He challenged me and, even when we disagreed, he respected our differences. There was no condescension.
When I look in the mirror I truly see both of my parents and my personality has come to reflect an interesting merger of theirs. So, too, have my teeth, by the way, in that I got the worst of both of theirs!
My father was an interesting introvert. His personality did not match his job, a liquor salesman, where he had to interact with the public constantly. Although he rarely boasted, it turned out that he was one of the top salesmen in his company, if not the top salesman.
Yet my father was happiest either when with family or when working on any number of projects around the house. I have often joked that my father could have assembled a starship if given the right materials and instructions. He enjoyed the challenge of problem-solving and, if memory serves me, either constructed anything that he set himself to build or repaired nearly anything. This was a talent that he did not pass on to his son. Whereas he was never afraid of making mistakes in building or repairing anything, for some reason that has not been my strength.
My father was never a “joiner.” Though he was a proud “union man,” despite the reactionary nature of the particular union to which he happened to belong, he was not the sort of person to get involved in building or running organizations. This, too, was odd since my father was the person who half of the planet seemed to consult for advice on anything and everything. He was also a remarkable peacemaker on his side of the family, which was frequently rocked by struggles that could make Congressional debates seem tame.
So it was that he could not quite understand his son who seemed to always be joining or forming organizations. Nevertheless, he never stood in my way. He reconciled his being very progressive—and generally supportive of the Left—with not being personally engaged. Though I could never accept such a reconciliation, I came to understand my father, and as such, I came to understand and treat with more humility, the fact that each of us must contribute to a higher cause in a manner that unites with our own souls.
My father was nothing short of my hero. This made it so difficult for me to watch him decline over the final ten years of his life. It was never clear whether some sort of depression triggered a form of dementia or whether a form of dementia triggered depression. In either case, his life narrowed each year and with this decline, our relationship changed. He was less sure of himself. He became surprised any time that I would ask his advice. And slowly he began to forget…including forgetting the names of many of our extended family.
Father’s Day holds with it a special and dual importance for me. I am a proud father of a wonderful, smart and engaging young woman who is nothing less than a treasure. And I am the proud son of one hell of a guy: William G. Fletcher, Sr.