Tell us: what’s your best memory of your dad?
Candice Bergen: We would go riding together. We both loved horses and liked to ride and we’d go to Palm Springs for weekends and go on these fantastic breakfast rides. Well, they were fantastic when you were seven or eight. We’d get up early and let my mom sleep in and we would go and saddle up and ride for an hour in the desert till we got to the chuck wagon where we’d tie up our horses and tuck into pancakes then ride back in our little group. It was always just the two of us and I cherished it.
Judith Martin: I am fortunate enough to have a photograph, now somewhat dim, that captures what I think of as my father’s essence. It was taken in Greece, where we lived when he was on assignment for the United Nations, and where he could indulge his deep lifelong interest in archeology. This was in 1952, and travel within war-ravaged Greece was primitive, but he was determined to see every site on every island, by whatever available means of transportation. In the picture, he is wearing one of his gray suits that complemented his silver hair, of course a tie, and a broad smile. He is sitting astride a donkey.
Cynthia McFadden: My father had a wonderful loving sense of whimsy. Growing up in Maine there was a huge pine tree in our backyard with dense, low-hanging boughs. My father said that to show how much the tree liked me, every year on just one day, my birthday, the tree would produce lollipops. And it did. Every year in May it bloomed with lollipops carefully tied to its branches. He never took credit, always claiming the tree was making the magic. But I can still see his bright blue eyes twinkling with delight on those birthday mornings as the tree greeted me with his bounty.
Joan Juliet Buck: The memories of my dad are endless, but what’s complex and interesting is the realization that I have never bonded with women in the same way that I have with men friends. Upon reflection, these men are each some kind of version of my father: I just realized that they all make films — produce, write, direct, or make documentaries. Jules Buck started as a photographer, became a cameraman, then a producer. What my friends give me is the same sense of wonder, the same vulnerability, the same curiosity, the same honesty, the same wish to reshape the world according to their eye. As they age they’re hoisted by success and tempered by frustration, doubt, and failure. I love them for showing a resilience that my father lost, and through their company I see my father’s life prolonged, played out in others, extended, eternal.
Mary Wells Lawrence: My father drove ambulances during the war and had horrifying memories of picking up pieces of men and their screams. He had been a gifted painter as a younger man. After he married my mother and they built a house on the edge of a large forest in Ohio he created an escape from his memories in our cellar. He would go there alone most evenings to paint and to be quiet. For a sensitive soul, he got through the wars and the depression by selling mattresses and bedroom furniture to small stores in Pennsylvania — but he lived without humor or relaxation. He was a frustration to my mother, who would lose her charm when he arrived home late evenings. When young, I used to watch for him from the windows and feel relief when his car wound its way to the garage. I would see him stretch himself out of the driver’s seat and feel about for his sales kits. And I would know that when he opened our back door, my mother would not be loving.
I understood that my mother was an outstanding woman and needed loving herself. Like many of us, even when young I had a picture of my family in my heart that beat in a sad, confused way. I have no memories of a happy father. But I do remember his peace in creating gardens like paintings — from the wildflowers in our forests.
I didn’t know how to make him happy then. Maybe someday I will.