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Alan D Busch

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Member Since: Feb, 2008

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Embers under my skin
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Please read this revision of my preface for my second book I'm writing to honor my father who passed away in October of 2008.

Fundamentals of Fathers and Sons

This wasn't the first time my dad and I had crossed rhetorical

swords. We’d been doing it for years. I look back at one such

instance of our heart to heart dialogue with special fondness.

It happened at a time in life when I knew so much more

than my father. I had recently returned home from my first

semester at the university. Now, forty years later as we sat

down at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee, I was struck by

how much Dad had caught up. The dialectic of father and son

had always intrigued me. Who understood more and better,

had a keener insight than my father?  He’d always been “avi

mori”, my father, my teacher, and with good reason. After all,

he’d struggled and succeeded, been there and done it, right?


It’s a truism that children are natural mimics, and though a

simple truth, it is replete with profound implications and

consequences. So important that even as a grown man with

three children, my mother would remind me  … “The children

will do as you do.” Our parents age but do not retire voluntarily

from parenting, and that is a good thing. We’re all too often inclined

to interpret words such as those of my mother as an admonition

to refrain only from presenting negative behavioral models to our

children and-while it might strike some as more than patently

obvious,-children can and do pick up on positive parental

models as well. Not surprisingly, then, have I always modeled

my talks with my children after my mother’s personal

instruction and my father’s role model.


From my side of the kitchen table, I enjoy bonding with my

dad. Always have. It’s the stuff that attaches a boy to his father

though it typically happens much earlier in the boy’s

formative years when he is still malleable. However, in matters

such as this, it’s also true that “later is better than never”.

That is, in part, how it happened in my case. My father and I

did so much of our bonding at the end of his life rather than

at the beginning of mine. Its core belief, I think, is

encapsulated in one sentence found at the beginning of the

siddur, the Jewish prayer book “ Shma beni mussar avicha v’al

tetoish toras imecha.” (Listen my son to your father's ethical instruction

and  do not disregard  your mother's teachings.)

My father gets such nachas, joy, fatherly pride from our

interactions. He thinks I'm so much smarter than I actually

am, his prerogative, I suppose, although I haven’t the heart to

tell him otherwise about me. As for his own technical

adeptness and  academic credentials, my father has both. Of

far greater importance to me is his ability to distcern the subtlle  

differences among the innumerable shades of gray, yet identify

those few moments in life when black and white explain it all.

I see him gearing up for our debate. I rather enjoy the

realization that he tests my "sticktoitiveness” by practicing the

pedagogic tactic of leading me “to the trough".  I soon discover,

much to my chagrin, he has set it upon wheels.  If I really want to

quench my thirst”, I have to follow that trough. I only hope that

when I do catch up, I’ll be worthy to receive this

oral tradition. Dramatic stuff when you think about it, an

inner look behind the act of giving over from father to son.

Think about it. What is uniquely his that he bequeaths to me,

the very act of which assures his eternality?  The answer is

simple. His story-not merely the facts themselves-but the

power of his example that will enable me to do the very same

thing with my younger son when it’s our turn. Ordinarily, all

fathers and sons participate in every generation, but what

happens if and when the chain is broken as happened with the

death of my son Ben?


We call his death a “tragedy” because he died at the wrong

time in history. Had he lived a long life, his death would not

have been tragic which-like my father’s death after eighty-

seven years-cannot be called a “tragedy” without stripping it

of any meaningful  definition. "Tragedy" disrupts the natural

flow of events in time, producing irreparable consequences.


Ben never became a father nor my dad a great grandfather to

his children. There will never be a child who’ll be able to say of

Ben:”This is my dad.”

 

 

 

 

 


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Reviewed by Linda Settles 6/5/2009
I grieve the broken chain, Alan and pray for God's comfort toward you. The loss of a child is an agony I can't even imagine. The depth of your pain has enriched your message to the world, my friend. Ben would be proud of his father.

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