Why We Love Philly Dads
So why dads? The easy answer: because it’s June, and in June, we celebrate fatherhood.
Nothing about fatherhood is or ever has been easy — and so the better, more complicated answer incorporates all the things our fathers have given us, their children. Things like: Bear hugs. Money. Daddy issues, and other neuroses. Lectures. Our work ethic. Our first car. Butt-whuppings. A healthy fear of credit-card debt. And, of course, stories. Our dads, all of them — the ones who coached us; the ones who cheered us; the ones who sat, stoic, on the sidelines, smoking; the ones who left — gave us stories. Below, we tell a few of them, tracking, across eras and across this city, this not-easy, complicated, essential job. Fatherhood.
By Ashley Primis
Most of the year there was Regular Dad. Regular Dad was kind of like Don Draper (minus the three-martini lunches and workday naps). He was a hardworking, good-looking, big-city, big-job media guy, with monogrammed cuffs on custom dress shirts. He lunched at the Rainbow Room. His job was high-stress, and we didn’t see a lot of him: He left our bucolic New Jersey home each morning before the sun had fully cracked the horizon and came home late each evening — all to beat the rush-hour traffic. His long commute, which was filled with off-ramps and toll roads, bridges and tunnels, was something he did every day for nearly 30 years without complaint. Regular Dad was pretty great as far as I was concerned: Decades later, I still remember jumping off the couch each night when I saw the headlights of his car pan across our family-room window as he turned into the driveway. I would race the dog to see who could get to the garage door first. Read more >>
By Lisa DePaulo
A memory: my junior year at Penn. I go home for Christmas. I bring the first story I wrote for the professor who, upon reading it, told me I would and should be a writer. (We can curse her later.) My mother is in the kitchen. My dad is in his favorite spot, The Recliner. Oh, this was such a nifty recliner! They got it at the fanciest furniture store in Scranton. It was from The Recliner that my dad did his favorite things: watch Johnny Carson; hold forth with all the relatives, friends, and friends of his kids who always seemed to be in the house; and fall asleep, snoring loudly, even if (especially if) the house was full of company. But on this night, it’s just the three of us. I hand a copy of my first “story” to each parent. My mother, Josephine, is mortified, horrified. I have made fun of our parish priest. She expresses her displeasure without uttering a word, by banging pots and pans. I look at my father, in The Recliner. He’s flipping through the pages and laughing. As robustly as he can without Josie hearing him. Then he looks at me. And grins. And puts a finger to his mouth, as if to say, “This is between us.” Then he utters the words that every daughter needs to hear from her father: “This is great.” Read more >>
By Malcolm Burnley
You brace yourself for a phone call; you don’t brace yourself for an email. But one day last year, this message from my father, with no subject line, was waiting in my inbox: “I got an e-mail last night informing me that Paul Burnley had died,” it began. “No details about when or how.” An email about an email about the death of my grandfather: Abstract and abrupt, it might as well have been a telegraph, all 135 words of it. I’d gone through the deaths of all my other grandparents, each one marked by a memory of my dad gently unspooling the facts, either in front of me or over the phone. His crackly voice on the other end of the line, trying to comfort me with a She died peacefully to soften the blow. But now, after the death of his father, he seemed unreachable. Read more >>
By Robert Huber
One summer night a long time ago, when I was 11, my father drove me down into Philly to see a baseball game. Dad had zero interest in baseball. I loved it. So it was up to me, riding shotgun down Roosevelt Boulevard from Morrisville, to conjure: the grass more perfect than any grass anywhere. The Reds! Skinny Frank Robinson, part of the first wave of great black players allowed into the majors, who stood almost on top of home plate, as if daring the pitcher to hit him. But my anticipation was wordless, as we gazed at the families chatting on their stoops along the Boulevard. My father, a virtually silent man, didn’t know Frank Robinson from Martin Luther King, and I knew he didn’t care to. Then suddenly Dad, until that moment simply chain-smoking his Salems, said, “I wonder if you’re having nocturnal emissions.” Huh? He looked normal — silent again — taking another drag from his cigarette. Read more >>