Former columnist for the Los Angeles Post Examiner, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and Gatehouse News Service

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Dad

This is a picture of my dad, Jim Purcell, with my oldest son Fred, shortly before Fred moved to Nashville, Tennessee. They are sporting their western shirts and their shared sense of fun...these two have always had a special bond.

My dad was always the very best dad in the world. Recent revelations have shown me just how busy my dad was during my childhood, in his role as a deputy Secretary of State for Refugees (he is the father of modern American humanitarian response as it pertains to refugees around the world), the Director of  the Refugee Program in the State Department, and a trusted civil service professional in Washington, DC. in policy creation and budget management, among so many other roles. He has worked relentlessly on behalf of his country for its good.

I never was affected by all that affected him professionally, because when he was home, father was the role he relished. His advice was always thoughtful and succinct: when I liked a boy in fourth grade, dad advised, "Ask him about what he likes, and start a conversation."( I believe I asked that boy about his drums.) He also taught me to ride a bike, throw a softball, build a fire and treat others kindly.

In high school, he took me out to breakfast to talk to me about the dangers of smoking. (Don't do it.) When I came home from college particularly dispirited and rudderless, my dad took me outside in the backyard for a talk. I thought he would chastise me for my late nights out with friends, or unleash disapproval for my current lifestyle of drinks, parties, and meaningless freedom. Instead, he sat me down and told me all the good things he saw in me -- all the promise, all the human potential. He asked me questions about my current interests, and helped me develop a plan for my life.

That conversation led to a lot of thought, which led to my first serious job in insurance and a dedication to writing. It also, I believe, led to a new openness in my heart for a serious relationship, because my dad was suggesting that I take my own life seriously. He had worked hard his whole life, and knew that the secret to happiness - or one of them - is simple: work. Dedicate yourself to making something better. It is you that is important in the equation, not necessarily the job you undertake -- whatever you do, do it well.

Soon after I met my husband, and I was ready to begin a more responsible, focused life, thanks to all that my dad had given to me. Dad had sowed the seeds and I had worked the field of my potential, giving up partying, dedicating myself to work, reading, walking and thinking. Now, in marriage, I was reaping the harvest of true adventure, children, family, and life, in its fullness.

Dad, you have always believed in me. Did you know that I have always believed in you? Well I have, and that has never wavered. How blessed I am to have that constant in my life. I love you, and my respect and awe of you will never fade.You were the first man I ever loved....and I always will.

 


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