|The Hirsch Family Father's Day barbecue in Greenwich, CT. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.|
|Monday, June 18, 2012. Sunny, occasionally cloudy, warm Father’s Day in New York, with temperatures dropping into the 60s by late afternoon. Very nice weather.
Father’s Day. JH invited to me to his family’s Father’s Day Barbecue up in Greenwich, but I preferred to stay home and in solitude, if you could call it that. There were a lot of people along the Promenade down by the river. Lots of children and young fathers (and mothers); and older mothers and fathers too, no doubt.
Over in Carl Schurz in the athletic court where a lot of the boys and men play basketball and roller-blade hockey, I saw a father with a toddler, both on roller blades, both with hockey stick, passing the puck between each other. The boy looked to be about three. I’m sure he wasn’t a moment over four, if that, because he was small and his movements were still child-boxy and lacking in grace. But he was amazing to watch because he already moved with an able dexterity. He was very comfortable on the rollerblades, although he mostly shuffled along because his little legs were still not long enough for him to stroke the pavement when he moved.
|Carl Schurz Park New York, William Glackens, 1922.
|So this little tyke, wielding a stick that was at least twice his height in length, and wearing a helmet that made his head look enormous on his little body, was turning in one direction, then the other, moving the stick back and forth, passing the puck along to his father as dad circled him at a slow, yet moderate pace.
What made me stop and watch however, was the back-and-forth with the puck. The father was a good skater and in command. Somehow he had been able to convey some of that to his little son and so, small as he was, he could keep up more or less, if not so gracefully.
They obviously were “practicing.” The child’s young mother was standing within feet of them, watching, holding an infant to her shoulder. Seeing me up on the Promenade level, smiling as I was watching the progress, she said quietly, astonished herself, “it’s amazing.”
A story was already writing in my head. The little boy in another year or two is going to be graceful and confident on the blades, and good with the stick. He already had the natural commitment. Additional confidence and grace will come when agility expands. His father is going to be thrilled, maybe even mindblown. The boy is going to be thrilled. The father is watching him thoughtfully, all the way, already.
The questions that it evoked: Will the father let the boy be after he has shown him how to fly, or will he push him for more, and then more? How will this perfect partnership develop under the natural forces of generational transition? Does the young father have those fantasies of the star athlete-son? Possible; and why not?
But if so, then the drama begins. I was watching what will someday be The Backstory of a Young (and Old) Man. Father and son. It’s always an interesting story. At least if you’re a man, it is. It was a moment of nature’s harmony – a beautiful Father’s Day moment.
JH and I went up to the house – Kykuit – for a quick tour when he was first opened to the public, a few years ago (NYSD 10.3.05 ). My memories of the house itself are vague, mainly because the views from its location (a hilltop) are so spectacular, so powerful and awesome, that the mansion seemed incidental, on experience. It was autumn, and the changing foliage had begun to dapple. The mighty Hudson meandering north, with the Catskills beyond in a rolling slumber is majestic; God’s Country. The spot on which the house was built, was especially chosen in the early 20th century by the richest man in the world, because he had the same experience.
The building was a great task and many years in the (decision) making, even before the planning. “Senior” as John D. Rockefeller was known, to differentiate between himself and his namesake – “Junior,” was a remarkable man in many ways. He began his “philanthropy” when he first started working as a boy. tithing 10% of his earnings and keeping strict records of every penny – literally, and where and to whom it went. There was always a purpose, to it all his life, and only very latterly, if at all, was the purpose to satisfy his ego.
|Father and son.|
|While it is an excellent account of a house and/or creating an estate, the intriguing part is the the father-son relationship. Unlike the man with the child on rollerblades, John D. Rockefeller Sr. did not engage his only son in any of his interests in his early youth – except religion and social piety. That came much later in life, and it was the building of the house that defined it. Senior had provided all the important elements, of course. Both he and Mrs. Rockefeller were kind and loving toward their son. They taught him to be cautious and mindful of money, all money, and never to assume.
So when that moment came that Junior wanted to build a big house, then the battle royal that occurs between all fathers and sons at the Coming of Age, began.
All of this was passing through my thoughts throughout the weekend. That, and my own father. I thought a great deal about him, more than usual. He died 38 years ago on July 9th, four months into his seventy-fifth year. He never had an experience with his father like that of the two sons I’ve mentioned today. Nor, did I. That is not uncommon either.
Meanwhile JH, good son that he is to his good father, spent the day with his wife Danielle, and his family in Connecticut, and then came back to town to have a Father’s Day dinner with Danielle, and her father. I don’t know what joys passed between them to compare with that of the rollerbladers, and the world’s richest man and his son. But I do know they had a lot to eat and a very good time. That’s what Father’s Day is supposed to be.
I’ve never been a father and although I don’t carry it around with regret, having watched some of my friends’ children from infancy to adulthood, and their development as people, and their similarities to their parents, it remains a wonder and a joy, and life’s greatest blessing.
|Kykuit, the Rockefeller house in Pocantico Hills overlooking the Hudson and the Catskills.|
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