my friend ed and i have known each other since kindergarten. i still remember him sitting on the floor in the front row, tall and impressive for a five-year-old. one day our teacher, mrs. phillips, complimented him on sitting up nice and straight. so, i sat up nice and straight, hoping she'd say something about me. didn't happen.
there's a picture of ed and his dad, taken in about 1963, featured prominently in ed's living room. next to it is a shot of ed and his son, staged to look just like the previous generation of father-and-son. it's a simple display, but also charming and endearing.
it's also sad, because ed's father died easter weekend.
the fact of his passing was not so sad, in that he was suffering from a painful, debilitating disease. it would be much more tragic if he were obliged to stay, interminably, tormented by his condition.
i've known ed for almost 40 years. we went to school together, played sports together, drank together...we even dated the same girl in high school. that's an incidental detail i don't hold against him, because he married the girl and i got to be in the wedding party. i also got to be godfather to their two kids, and they are two of the most beautiful children i know. our families have vacationed together, and one day we may buy a snazzy vacation home somewhere. together.
anyway, the point is we have a lifetime of shared memories--but in all that time, i never knew ed's dad. he moved away years ago, and my understanding is he never really looked back. so he didn't have a good handle on the person his son grew into; the committed father and husband and friend he became as a man. ed's dad died without being able to look at his son and say, "that's my boy, and i'm proud of him."
it's sad, because there's a lot to be proud of. ed is intelligent, and funny. he's a good writer, and he makes a mean mai tai. back in the day he was a hell of a basketball player...now he coaches his two kids, who have in turn become basketball prodigies.
so, i went to a funeral yesterday. funerals being what they are, it was a sad occasion. for a lot of reasons. but there was one aspect of this passing that was not at all unhappy, and it's this: buried with ed's father is a legacy of distance and indifference that could have easily been inherited by his son, but was not. that torch was not passed on to his son's children.
conventional wisdom is that we all want our children to do better, to be better than we were. i hope ed's father now knows that his son achieved that goal, and much more.