Friday Jul 19


I’ll Always Remember the 13 Years We Had

My father died in 1962 when he was 47, and I was about to turn 13. But I was not cheated. In fact, I could not have asked for a better Dad.

Years do matter. I’ve missed my Dad every day for the past 61 years. The father of a friend of mine, who was a close friend of my Dad, just celebrated his 102nd birthday. What a glorious event! But when I think of my father, I think of all he did for me and my brother growing up, not what we missed.

During his last few years my Dad had health issues. But we did not really know the details, or how serious they were. He was always there for us. Just about every night we tossed a baseball or football around in the backyard, weather permitting which was not always the case in Cleveland. One day he announced that he bought three season tickets for the Browns games. My brother and I were in heaven.

We grew up in a suburb of Cleveland known for its public schools, Shaker Heights. My parents picked a community they thought would be best for my brother and me. And they were right. Our teachers let us know we were expected to succeed, which meant doing our homework every night. My father and mother were there to help us when we needed it.

My brother and I were lucky. Our Dad started and ran a successful small business with his brother, who lived to his nineties and always looked after us as he knew our Dad would. And we never went without. We always knew we could go to college if we wanted, and frankly it was made clear to us that this is what was expected of us when we graduated from high school.

Except for high school summer jobs my brother and I never went into the family business. He became a lawyer who now lives in Albuquerque, and I became a college professor in Washington DC. One of the most important lessons I learned from Dad was the value of doing your own thing, earning your own way. Going into a family business would never provide that opportunity.

But I was no Horatio Alger. I was privileged. College and then graduate school would never have been possible without the guidance Dad provided for my first 13 years and the support he provided after that. As a sociologist, I also know full well the many benefits I enjoyed from the context in which I was raised. This is not a family values rant. It is a recognition of the childhood I had and that every child deserves.

Years count. No doubt I missed out because my Dad was not there to see me graduate from college, read my first publication, meet my wife, and play catch with my son and daughter. But I was lucky. Thanks Dad.

Gregory D. Squires is a Research Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology at George Washington University