Two Good Books About Fathers by Tim Russert


Big Russ & Me: Father and Son: Lessons of Life (NY: Miramaz Books, nd)

Before his death in 2008,  Tim Russert was the moderator and managing editor of Meet the Press, and the Washington bureau chief of NBC News. He was plain spoken and a tough questioner. This delightful memoir introduces the reader to Tim’s father, Big Russ, a WWII veteran who worked two jobs, sanitation worker and newspaper truck driver, in raising four children in South Buffalo. Tim learned from his father to live an honest, ethical, and disciplined life. The relationship between father and son was healthy and positive. Russert shared of his respect for his father and some interesting stories from his own life.

Here are some gems from the book:

As his wife’s health declined, she said to Big Russ, “I’m sorry to be such a poor companion.” He responded, “Don’t you know I just want to be in the same room with you.”

While Russert was working for Senator Patrick Moynihan, Tim told him he wasn’t sure he fit in with Ivy League graduates. “Moynihan put his arm about me and said, ‘Ideas are important and words mater, but so does getting elected. Let me tell you something: what they know, you can learn; but what you know, they will never learn. Remember: none of these guys has ever worked on a garbage truck.”

He also learned from Moynihan that the key ingredient in learning the truth was to ask the right questions. He also profited from Moynihan’s example of writing thank you letters.

A friend lost his teenage son. Tim said to him, “Think of it this way,” I said. “What if God had come to you and said, ‘I’m going to make you an offer. I will give you a beautiful, wonderful, happy, and lovable son for seventeen years, but then it will be time for him to come home.’ You would have made that deal in a second, right?”

“Of course,” he said. “I wouldn’t even have to think about it.”

He called Tim a couple of days later to say that Tim’s words had helped him. “Rather than thinking of what was taken away,” he said, “I’ve been trying to focus on what God had given me.”

Wisdom of Our Fathers, (NY: Random House, 2006)

After people read his #1 New York Times bestselling Big Russ and Me, Tim received thousands of letters from sons and daughters telling about their fathers, sharing gratitude, memories, and lessons. Russert reported that in the 60,000 responses about fathers, very little was said “about material gifts or things, the most precious gifts were time, attention, and love.” He asked the reader “What will your children remember when they tell their children about you?”

Here are a few of the testimonies:

A woman dealing with manic depression had a dream in which her deceased father whispered, “This is not your fault . . . but it is your responsibility.” She didn’t instantly get better, but she these words really helped her to start participating in life again.

A father advanced a loan so his twenty-one year old son could buy a car. While the parents were on a trip the son was to deposit $100 each payday into the bank. The son enjoyed partying instead. When back from the trip, the father went to talk with his son. The father explained that keeping one’s word and honoring commitments meant everything. He said he was more disappointed than angry. He said one’s words and actions are a yardstick for how others measure you. He wanted him to start thinking about his core values and principles. He gave him more deposit slips but said he would come and take the car if he missed one payment without an explanation beforehand. The son said, “That time we spent together changed me forever.”

A thirty-year-old woman married with children identified herself as a ‘chronic worrier.’ Her father came to her house with a wooden box. He said, “When you have a worry, write it down on one of the pieces of paper in the box. Close the box and continue doing this for two weeks; write down all your worries and put them in the box.” She did this.

After two weeks, together they read the papers. “All of them had either come to naught or were things over which I had no control. He taught me a powerful lesson, and from then on I worried much less. What will be will be. . . . He didn’t give advice; he provided solutions.”

These two books are inspiring and offer excellent suggestions and advice.