Tim Russert’s death hit me hard.
My husband Frank can tell you that one of my cherished Sunday morning rites includes Russert’s lively and thought-provoking “Meet the Press.” I particularly loved that Russert let us glimpse his own life and values – his love of family, sports and his faith. Many observe that his Jesuit education and legal training helped shape his tough but fair “no whining” interview style.
A few years ago, I gave my dad Sam a copy of Russert’s best-selling book, “Wisdom of Our Fathers” as a Father’s Day gift. This book grew from an earlier popular book “Big Russ and Me: Father and Son: Lessons from Life.”
The irony of Russert’s passing at the beginning of Father’s Day weekend is not lost. With his own reverence and passion for fatherhood, Russert has raised this special day to an even higher level. On today’s “Meet the Press,” Russert’s executive producer said that Tim would call Big Russ after every show to see how the show went. His father's opinion was the true test of the broadcast. My heart goes out to Big Russ who probably never thought his son would pre-decease him.
My own love of books and reading comes from my father. My dad Sam grew up during the Depression and he served in the US Army during WW2. In his youngest days, he would save his money, box tops and “proofs of purchase” so he could build a library. Books were a precious commodity in those days. My dad is also a (very) civil engineer, a terrific grill master and a soft touch for babies and puppies. A patient teacher, he's been a popular guest at his grandchildren's schools: reading aloud and sharing his love of stamp collecting. Dad keeps a daily diary and is the “go to guy” when we can’t remember something! Every time the Yankees are in trouble, we wonder why George is not calling my father for advice – or with a job offer. As a Brooklyn native, he chose the Yankees over the Dodgers as his team a long time ago!
This year, I am giving my dad Bobby Murcer’s book, “Yankee for Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes.” I learned the game of baseball watching and listening to Yankees’ games with my dad. At my peak of baseball fascination, I kept a scrapbook of Mickey Mantle’s last home runs and chronicled the early career of another native Oklahoman—Number 1, Yankees’ centerfielder Bobby Murcer. I still have my Bobby Murcer baseball bat –a cherished momento from a “Bat Day” trip to Yankee Stadium with my dad and brother. Bobby Murcer is more familiar to many now as a Yankee broadcaster. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This memoir is a testament to families and to the idea of family expressed in close knit communities and among colleagues.
I always inscribe the books I give as gifts. I haven’t inscribed this one yet – but I hope to find words to connect me, my dad, our love of reading and baseball.
This weekend, Fr. Ed writes of the importance of mentors in the Notre Dame bulletin. What man in your life is helping you write your memoir?
Happy Father's Day!