Concord Monitor – Opinion: Reflection on fatherhood


Parker Potter is a former archaeologist and historian, and a retired lawyer. He is currently a semi-professional dog walker living and working in Contoocook.

I had a father and I am a father. So on Father’s Day I look in two directions: at my father, who died about ten years ago, and at my daughter, who made me a father more than twenty years ago. When I am working on that double vision, I am always fortunate that in my father I have had an example of the father I hope to be.

My father was never afraid to let me go. The summer between second and third grade he took me on a business trip to New York City. One morning, when he had a meeting, he left me in Central Park to wait for him. In retrospect, that may not seem like a Father of the Year move, but that’s how Parker Sr. rolled.

When I was in high school, he gave me a pair of Cincinnati Reds tickets from his company. To use them, a friend and I took a city bus to downtown Columbus, hopped on a Greyhound for the ride to Cincy, and walked to the ballpark. My chance to go to Cincinnati alone was no doubt inspired by my father’s youthful adventures when he took the train from Princeton, New Jersey, to see the New York Giants play at the Polo Grounds. So it was only natural that I greenlighted our daughter’s plan to drive to Boston to take a basketball-loving French exchange student to the Celtics game.

When I was in high school and visiting colleges, my father took me to his alma mater, the University of Virginia, but let me attend Williams and Amherst on my own. I made the overnight drive from Columbus to Massachusetts with a high school friend, and on the way back our ride down the elevator at Niagara Falls, at 9:30 on a Sunday night, in a snowstorm, was epic.

The point is that my father gave me enormous freedom, and I have tried to do the same with our daughter. Her frequent trips to Europe, on her own, are a direct legacy of her grandfather.

My father also managed to support me deeply, without being overbearing or overly directive. In his youth, my father was a real athlete. He ran in the Penn Relays in high school, quarterbacked his high school football team and played semi-pro baseball in college. Yet he never tried to force me into the sports he practiced. I wasn’t particularly athletic, and no good would have come if he had insisted that I play football or baseball. Rather, he introduced me to golf, and we more or less started the game together when I was in kindergarten.

When I was in college, my mom and dad never missed a parent weekend. In my sophomore year, my father started his own coal company, and while I believe he would have welcomed me into the business (my younger brother even worked with my father for several years), my father never pushed me to take business courses. to follow. He was happy to see that I was studying English and French and pursuing my interests in anthropology, even though he was not familiar with any of these subjects.

Although I followed a very different path from my father’s and studied things he didn’t know much about, he couldn’t have been more proud of my academic achievements. I suspect that my study of anthropology was as foreign to my father as our daughter’s study of finance was to me. Yet I am as proud of our daughter as my father was proud of me.

Now comes the funny part. My father, who had a four-alarm disciplinary problem in high school and barely graduated, had a brother who was a brilliant medical researcher. In 1984, Science magazine published an angry editorial when two of my Uncle Mike’s research partners won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and my uncle was left out. My uncle’s son was not very academically inclined, and my uncle sometimes wondered, perhaps a little bitterly, how his brother, that is, my father, the son with a Ph.D. and a JD All I know is that I will forever be grateful that the stork dropped me down my mom and dad’s chimney instead of my uncle’s chimney.

My father gave me the gifts of freedom, unconditional support, a love of dogs, and a deep appreciation for youth athletics; his presence at my Ohio cousins’ sporting events during their college years was legendary.

Finally, what makes my father’s paternity all the more remarkable is that his own father, as I only recently learned, was temperamentally unfit to be a husband or father. In a memoir I first saw a few months ago, my father described his father as loved outside the home, by strangers and acquaintances, but distant and distant at home.

Although I strive to create for our daughter (working with Nancy Jo) the warm, nurturing environment in which I grew up, my father did not receive positive guidance from his childhood when he and my mother created such an environment for me and my brothers and sisters created. I’ll think about that on Father’s Day.