Les anglonautes

About | Search | Vocapedia | Learning | News podcasts | Videos | History | Arts | Science | Translate and listen

 Previous Home Up Next


Vocapedia > Family > Father




Illustration: Nathalie Lees


Father’s Day Can Be Hard.

Here’s How to Handle the Holiday.

For people grieving a loss

or facing thoughts

“about what could have been or what may never be,”

there are ways to find solace.


June 17, 2022


















The Woman on the Bridge

Police and prosecutors spent five years chasing a domestic violence case.

Would it be enough?


Nov. 28, 2021    11:00 a.m. ET



















Mornings With My Father




19 June 2016



















Billy Gray, left,

Elinor Donahue, Robert Young, Jane Wyatt and Lauren Chapin

starred in the TV show Father Knows Best.


Movie Star News


'Father Knows Best' actress Wyatt dies

Updated 10/23/2006    2:23 PM ET

By Robert Bianco        USA TODAY

23 October 2006


















Illustration: Richie Pope


Two Dads, Two Kids, One Experiment in Family


JUNE 18, 2016


















Illustration: Brian Stauffer


The Myth of the Victimless Crime


12 March 2008















































































































































































A Family Man

Story Corps    6 June 2012





A Family Man

Video        Story Corps        6 June 2012


In 1955, John L. Black, Sr. started his job

as a janitor for the Cincinnati public school system.


He regularly put in 16-hour days

to provide for his wife and eleven children.


At StoryCorps,

his son Samuel talks with his wife, Edda Fields-Black,

about his father's lasting legacy and the power of a look.


Funding Provided by:

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

National Endowment for the Arts


In partnership with POV.


Special thanks

to Cincinnati Public Schools.


Directed by: The Rauch Brothers

Art Direction: Bill Wray

Producers: Lizzie Jacobs & Mike Rauch

Animation: Tim Rauch

Audio Produced by:

Michael Garofalo & Nadia Reiman

Music: Fredrik

Label: The Kora Records

Publisher: House of Hassle


















A Good Man

StoryCorps    18 June 2014





A Good Man

Video        StoryCorps        18 June 2014


Bryan Wilmoth and his seven younger siblings

were raised in a strict, religious home.


At StoryCorps,

Bryan talks with his brother Mike about what it was like

to reconnect years after their dad kicked Bryan out

for being gay.


Funding provided by

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The Ford Foundation

In partnership with POV


Directed by: The Rauch Brothers

Art Direction: Bill Wray

Producers: Lizzie Jacobs, Maya Millett & Mike Rauch

Animation: Tim Rauch

Audio Produced by: Nadia Reiman & Michael Garofalo

Music: Fredrik

Label: The Kora Records

Publisher: House of Hassle













father / father        UK / USA






















































and-nobody-warned-me-i-did-not-get-the-chance-to-save-him - April 21, 2020























































































































































father figure        USA










teenage fathers        UK










biological father        UK










biological father        USA










gay father        UK










absent father        UK







fatherless        UK






stepfather        USA






Alfie Patten        UK










Father's Day        UK








abusive fathers        UK

















fatherhood        UK










gay fatherhood        UK

























fatherhood        USA























































errant fathers        UK










Fathers 4 Justice        UK












dad        UK

















































USA > dad        UK / USA




































dad > parental leave        USA










ordinary dad        USA










being a home dad        UK










go to jail for failure to pay child support        USA






















Police talk to Fathers 4 Justice campaigner Jason Hatch

during his Buckingham Palace protest.



13 September 2004



















Corpus of news articles


Family > Father




A Father’s Journey


December 22, 2012

The New York Times



FOR a long while, my father’s way of coping was to walk quietly from the room. He doesn’t remember this. I do. I can still see it, still feel the pinch in my chest when the word “gay” came up — perhaps in reference to some event in the news, or perhaps in reference to me — and he’d wordlessly take his leave of whatever conversation my mother and my siblings and I were having. He’d drift away, not in disgust but in discomfort, not in a huff but in a whisper. I saw a lot of his back.

And I was grateful. Discomfort beat rejection. So long as he wasn’t pushing me away, I didn’t need him to pull me in. Heart-to-hearts weren’t his style, anyway. With Dad you didn’t discuss longings, anxieties, hurts. You watched football. You played cards. You went to dinner, you picking the place, him picking up the check. He always commandeered the check. It was the gesture with which he communicated everything he had trouble expressing in other ways.

But at some point Dad, like America, changed. I don’t mean he grew weepy, huggy. I mean he traveled from what seemed to me a pained acquiescence to a different, happier, better place. He found peace enough with who I am to insist on introducing my partner, Tom, to his friends at the golf club. Peace enough to compliment me on articles of mine that use the same three-letter word that once chased him off. Peace enough to sit down with me over lunch last week and chart his journey, which I’d never summoned the courage to ask him about before.

It’s been an extraordinary year, probably the most extraordinary yet in this country’s expanding, deepening embrace of gays and lesbians as citizens of equal stature, equal worth. For the first time, an American president still in office stated his belief that two men or two women should be able to marry. For the first time, voters themselves — not lawmakers, not courts — made same-sex marriage legal. This happened on Election Day in three states all at once: Maine, Maryland and Washington. A corner was turned.

And over the quarter-century leading up to it, at a succession of newspapers in a succession of cities, I interviewed scores of people about the progress we were making and why. But until last week, I couldn’t bring myself to examine that subject with the person whose progress has meant the most to me: my dad.

He’s 77. Closing in fast on 78. Hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since Kennedy. Pledged a fraternity in college. Served as an officer in the Navy. Chose accounting as his profession. Remained married to his high school sweetheart, my mother, until she died in 1996, just shy of their 40th anniversary. He still mentions her daily.

She was the freer spirit, and I told her I was gay back in 1981, when I was 17. She implored me not to tell him — too risky, she said — and to let her handle it. A few years later, she informed me that she’d done so, and that was that. Dad said nothing to me. I said nothing to him. When I would come home to Connecticut from college in North Carolina, he would give me the same kind of hug he’d always given me: manly, swift, sincere. When I was in graduate school in New York City, he would swoop into town to take me to the Four Seasons for duck.

I was sure that he’d resolved simply to put what he’d learned about me out of his mind and pretend it didn’t exist. I was wrong. He was mulling it over, trying to figure it out.

“It was just so unusual to me,” he recalled, groping for the right word.

He’d heard it said that gay people were somehow stunted, maybe even ill. But that made no sense to him, because he was confident that I was neither of those things.

He’d heard it said that peculiar upbringings turned children gay. “I thought about it a lot,” he said, “and I came to the conclusion that it had to be in your genes, in you, because I couldn’t think how the environment for you was any different than it was for your two brothers.”

He said he worried that I was in for a more difficult, less complete life than they and my sister were. I asked him why he’d never broached that with me. He said that it would have been an insult — that I was obviously smart enough to have assessed the terrain and figured out for myself how I was going to navigate it.

IN the years before Mom died, I had my first long-term relationship, and I could tell that seeing me coupled, just like my brothers and my sister were, gave him a new, less abstract way to understand me. I just wanted what they wanted. Someone special.

He welcomed the man I was with effusively. Took the two of us out to eat.

Then Mom was gone, and all the parenting fell to Dad. He tapped reserves I’d never imagined in him. When I broke up with the man he’d been so effusive toward, he must have told me six times how sorry he was about that. It was a message — that he was rooting for my happiness, no matter how that happiness came to me.

What he struggled most with, he admitted to me over our lunch, was his worry about what others would think of me, of him, of our family. His Italian-immigrant parents had been fanatics about the face a person presented to the world — the “bella figura,” as Italians say — and when I would write candidly about my life, as I did on occasion, he’d flinch a bit. Still does.

But he has decided that such writing is necessary. “There’s prejudice out there, and it’s good to fight that,” he said, adding that visibility and openness are obviously integral to that battle. “I’m convinced that people who don’t accept gays just don’t really know any of them.”

He’s increasingly irked at his political party, which he thinks is signing its own death warrant with its attitude toward gays, toward guns, toward immigrants. You have to bend to reality. Evolve with the times. Be open-minded. Be fair.

His evolution continues. Same-sex marriage is a tough one for him, as it is, still, for no small number of Americans. It’s as exotic a proposition as my being gay once was, a challenge to the way he understood the world and its traditions for so very long.

But he’s not prepared to say that what two committed men or two committed women share is anything less than what a man and a woman do. In any case, he noted, society is moving in only one direction on this front. And he’s O.K. with that.

As our meal ended he asked me — first time ever — if I wanted or planned on kids. I don’t. He said he was sad that I’d never be a father, because it was an experience with such deep satisfactions and so much joy.

Grabbing the check for once, I confessed that I’d long felt a measure of guilt about the extra burden I’d confronted him with, the added struggle.

He shook his head: “I almost think I love you more for it — for being what you are rather than what was expected of you.”

A Father’s Journey,






Frank Beardsley, 97,

Storied Father of 20


December 20, 2012

The New York Times



Stacks of discount-price children’s shoes lined the walls of a large closet at the Beardsley home in Carmel, Calif., in the 1960s and ’70s — size after size in three types: oxfords for school, patent-leather dress-ups for church and tennis shoes for play.

Frank Beardsley, a retired Navy chief warrant officer, had bought them in large quantity at a naval base store so that he would always be ready to refit his children’s growing feet.

He had 20 children.

Rather, he and the former Helen North had 20 after merging two very large families in a second marriage for both, he as a widower and she as a widow. Their union prompted wide media coverage and inspired a book and two movies titled “Yours, Mine and Ours,” the first starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball.

Mr. Beardsley died on Dec. 11 in Santa Rosa, Calif., his eldest son, Michael, said. He was 97 and lived in Kenwood, Calif.

Mr. Beardsley was 45 and a father of 10 when he married Helen North, a mother of 8, on Sept. 9, 1961. Reporters and a large crowd flocked to the church in Carmel for the wedding and later to the courthouse in Salinas, Calif., where each parent adopted the other’s children. Within three years, the couple had two more.

The attention did not end. Tour buses stopped outside their home. A bread company hired the Beardsleys to do a commercial and posted a family photograph on its trucks. Shortly after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Beardsley appeared on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” show. (Mr. Carson described their life as “Camp Run Amok,” one of their sons, Gregory, recalled, adding, “But we were pretty organized, actually.”)

In 1965, Mrs. Beardsley wrote a book, “Who Gets the Drumstick?” It described assembly-line sandwich making and dormlike living in a house that had to be expanded to eight bedrooms and five bathrooms. By then, Mr. Beardsley was retired from the Navy and had opened a gift shop. The family later owned three bakeries as well.

Mrs. Beardsley’s book caught the attention of Ms. Ball, whose Desilu Studios bought the rights and adapted it for film. In 1968 it released “Yours, Mine and Ours.” At the premiere all 22 members of the Beardsley family joined Ms. Ball on stage. The characters in the film were also named Beardsley.

A remake starring Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo was released in 2005, to not-so-favorable reviews by the family. “It’s a cute movie, but I don’t know why they called it ‘Yours, Mine and Ours,’ because it’s not our story,” Germaine Robison, one of the 12 daughters, told The Associated Press. Among the changes, the children were given new names and several were of other ethnicities and adopted.

Francis Louis Beardsley was born in San Francisco on Sept. 11, 1915, to Charles and Mary Grennan Beardsley. He joined the Navy in 1936, rising to chief warrant officer in a 31-year career.

His first wife, the former Frances Albrecht, died in 1960. A year later, he married Helen Brandmeir North, who died in 2000. He is survived by his third wife, the former Dorothy Cushman.

In addition to his sons Michael and Gregory and his daughter Ms. Robison, he is survived by his other children and stepchildren, some of whom have changed their last name back to North. They are: Charles, Joseph, Mary and Veronica Beardsley; Colleen, Janet, Thomas, Nicholas, Gerald and Phillip North; and Rosemary Richter, Louise Ingram, Susan Pope, Joan Rodewald, Jean Murphy, Teresa Wyble and Helen Vanucchi.

Mr. Beardsley is also survived by about 60 grandchildren and about 24 great-grandchildren, Michael Beardsley said.

Gregory Beardsley credited his parents with not overplaying the family’s fame.

“My parents,” he told The Monterey County Herald, “always used to remind us, ‘You’re only 5 percent of the equation, so 5 percent of a celebrity isn’t too much to brag about.’ ”

    Frank Beardsley, 97, Storied Father of 20, NYT, 20.12.2012,






Remembrances of My Father


June 17, 2011
The New York Times


Occasionally, without warning, the drunken wreckage of my father would wash up on our doorstep, late at night, stammering, laughing, reeking of booze.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Beating on the door, pleading to my mother to open it. “These my boys just like they is yours!”

He was on his way home from drinking, gambling, philandering, or some combination thereof, squandering money that we could have used and wasting time that we desperately needed. Sometimes he was a stone’s throw from our house in rural northern Louisiana. As a parting gift, he would drop by to bless us with an incoherent 30 minutes of drunken drivel, crumbs that I hungrily lapped up, time that would be lost to him in the fog of a hangover by the time day broke. It was as close as I could get to him, so I took it.

It was the late-1970s. My parents were separated. My mother was now raising a gaggle of boys on her own. She was a newly minted schoolteacher. He was a juke-joint musician-turned-construction worker.

He spouted off about what he planned to do for us, buy for us. But the slightest thing we did or said drew the response, “you jus’ blew it.” In fact, he had no intention of doing anything. The one man who was supposed to be genetically programmed to love us, in fact, lacked the understanding of what it truly meant to love a child — or to hurt one.

To him, this was a harmless game that kept us excited and begging. In fact, it was a cruel, corrosive deception that subtly and unfairly shifted the onus of his lack of emotional and financial investment from him to us.

I lost faith in his words and in him. I stopped believing. Stopped begging. Stopped expecting. I wanted to stop caring, but I couldn’t.

Maybe it was his own complicated relationship to his father and his father’s family that rendered him cold. Maybe it was the pain and guilt associated with a life of misfortune. Who knows. Whatever it was, it stole him from us, and particularly from me.

While my brothers talked ad nauseam about breaking and fixing things, I spent many of my evenings reading and wondering. My favorite books were a set of encyclopedias — the greatest single gift of my life — given by my uncle. The volumes were bound in white leather with red writing on the covers. They allowed me to explore the world beyond my world, to travel without leaving, to dream dreams greater than my life would otherwise have supported. I’d pick a volume at random — G — and off I’d go: gemstones and Ghana, Galileo and gravity. It was fantastic.

But losing myself in my own mind also meant that I was completely lost to my father.

He could relate to my brothers’ tactile approaches to the world but not to my cerebral one. He understood the very real sensation of touching things — the weight of a good wrench, the tension of a guitar string, the soft hairs on the nape of a harlot’s neck — more than the ephemeral magic of literature and learning.

So, not understanding me, he simply ignored me — not just emotionally, but physically as well. Never once did he hug me, never once a pat on the back or a hand on the shoulder or a tousling of the hair. I was forced to experience him as a distant form in a heavy fog, forced to nurse a longing that he was neither equipped nor inclined to satisfy.

My best memories of him were from his episodic attempts at engagement.

During the longest of these episodes, once every month or two, he would come pick us up and drive us down the interstate to Trucker’s Paradise, a seedy, smoke-filled, truck stop with gas pumps, a convenience store, a small dining area and a game room through a door in the back. It had a few video games, a couple of pinball machines and a pool table. Perfect.

My dad gave each of us a handful of quarters, and we played until they were gone. He sat up front in the dining area, drinking coffee and being particular about the restaurant’s measly offerings.

I loved these days. To me, Trucker’s Paradise was paradise. The quarters and the games were fun but easily forgotten. It was the presence of my father that was most treasured. But, of course, these trips were short-lived. My father soon sank back into his sewer of booze and women.

And so it was. Every so often he would make some sort of effort, but every time it wouldn’t last.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I would find something that I would be able to cling to as evidence of my father’s love.

When the Commodore 64 personal computer debuted, I convinced myself that I had to have it even though its price was out of my mother’s range. So I decided to earn the money myself. I mowed every yard I could find that summer for a few dollars each, yet it still wasn’t enough. The grass just didn’t grow fast enough. So my dad agreed to help me raise the rest of the money by driving me to one of the watermelon farms south of town, loading up his truck with wholesale melons and driving me around to sell them.

He came for me before daybreak. I climbed into the truck, which was littered with months-old coffee cups, dirty papers and rusty tools and reeked of cigar smoke and motor oil. We made small talk, but it didn’t matter. The fact that he was talking to me was all that mattered. We arrived at the farm, negotiated a price and fussed over the ones we would take. We loaded them, each one seemingly heavier than the last, and we were off.

I was a teenager by then, but this was the first time that I had ever spent time alone with him. It felt great. We drove around a neighboring town all afternoon selling melons to his friends. I got to see a small slice of his life. People smiled when he drove up. They made jokes, some at his expense. He smiled and laughed and repeatedly introduced me as “my boy,” a phrase he relayed with a palpable sense of pride. We didn’t get back home until it was dark. It was one of the best days of my life. Small gestures are easily magnified when there is nothing against which to measure them.

ALTHOUGH he had never told me that he loved me, I would cling to that day as the greatest evidence of that fact.

He had never intended me any wrong. He just didn’t know how to love me right. He wasn’t a mean man. I had never once seen him angry. He had never been physically abusive in any way. His crime and his cruelty was the withholding of affection — not out of malice but out of indifference.

So I took these random episodes and clung to them like a thing most precious, squirreling them away for the long stretches of coldness when a warm memory would prove most useful.

It just goes to show that no matter how estranged the father, no matter how deep the damage, no matter how shattered the bond, there is still time, still space, still a need for even the smallest bit of evidence of a father’s love.

“My boy.”

Remembrances of My Father,






My Father’s Words


June 21, 2009
The New York Times


Before they closed my father’s casket, I left him with a gift. After all he had given me, it was the least and best I could do. He passed away the day I got my 1,000th career hit, in the final game of the 2002 season, so at his side I left the ball from my milestone.

Besides the surreal and horrifying last moment of seeing him lying in permanent stasis, it was also the first time I could remember giving him a special game ball without him slipping a $10 bill into my hands to congratulate me. His illness kept him out of whatever stadium I was playing in during the latter years of my career, though that didn’t stop him from patting me on the back from afar with a phone call or by what I could best describe as a “spiritual moment,” one when I would feel him sitting on my shoulder advising me while referencing a page out of his psychiatric repertoire.

I left baseball in 2005, with a Triple-A contract on the table from the San Diego Padres. I left not for physical reasons — I’d had a torn hamstring tendon in 2003, but it hadn’t affected my speed — but because it was my season for change. So I decided to walk away and once I did, like the vast majority of players, I was lost. It would be the first time since I learned to swing a bat that I would spend an entire summer without ever putting on a uniform. Even if you get a going-away party like the one the Phillies gave me on June 25th, 2005, when I threw out the first pitch of the Philadelphia-Boston game on a national TV, once the last partygoer walks out the door it’s no longer you against that fastball, it is you against yourself.

So you swim around trying to figure out what young, retired baseball players do with their lives. For me, the moment was stark without the guiding wisdom of my father, who could communicate with me with just a nod of his head.

Since my retirement, I have searched for the next passion that could fill the void that a life playing baseball creates when you are no longer putting on those spikes. It is a daunting journey, and many players never find that closure or that next love. But they keep looking, even if other parts of their lives are crumbling behind them. Maybe that was part of the problem: searching. I found myself agreeing when I heard John Locke, the main character on “Lost,” say, “I found it just like you find anything else, I stopped looking.”

Of course my father could never be replaced, though that didn’t stop me from trying to find ways to preserve his legacy, his worldview and his work. He was a practicing psychiatrist, but his passion was writing. He left behind a body of poetry that guides me now that I can’t ask him how he handled his sons when we wanted to sleep in our parents’ bed, or what the best course of action would be in dealing with a difficult business partner, or a racist coach.

(I have always remembered those moments when my father would be spontaneously inspired to write a poem. He would just walk off and lock in, pen to paper. He could turn his already phenomenal vocabulary into music. When I found out that he started writing poetry at age 7, I was amazed. Outside of the original collection of poetry I have, he left behind two books he published on his own.)

I didn’t stay lost forever. I found something that I wasn’t looking for: a voice through writing. Only later did I understand that this would be a bridge to understanding my father in another way. A way that led me to connect to a passion I didn’t realize we both shared.

Writing introduced me to people who were otherwise strangers and made them guests at my table. Words can appear to be part of a one-way mirror, but they are in fact surprisingly reciprocal — a dynamic I’m reminded of when I call upon my father through his poetry. In this way, my father stays with me. I can preserve his inspiring legacy more powerfully through writing than through the hummingbird pendant I wear around my neck to honor his homeland of Trinidad, or a picture or heirloom.

After my first column, I went as a guest to a friend’s church in Chicago. In the foyer, a woman who also knew our host was waiting. She asked me whether I had written that opinion piece on fear, steroids and baseball. I told her I had. She proceeded to tell me that she taught journalism at Northwestern and that she thought it was the quintessential opinion piece. I had already known that for me writing was passion and even therapy, but now I also thought that maybe I’d found my next profession.

Thankfully, I always knew my father was proud of me — before the major league debut, before the Ivy-league degree that was unfathomable to a generation of people who had only recently earned the right to vote. But despite living the dream of so many Americans and reaching its highest level, I have no doubt that he would be even prouder of what I am doing with my words. Words that I can leave for my son to read...one day.

    My Father’s Words, NYT, 21.6.2009,






Op-Ed Contributor

Father Meets Son


June 21, 2009
The New YorkTimes


THERE was a water-stained photograph, faded from years of tropical heat, of my 10-year-old son and me as we walked away down the pier toward my sailboat. I had my arm around his shoulders and his arm was around my waist; there was a lot of love in that picture. Permanently framed in the boat, the photo captured that sad moment — the last time I was to see my son for 27 years.

I met him again in a crowded hotel lobby in New York City. We had agreed to meet, to test the waters. A son was now ready to find out who his father was, a father wanted to know how his son turned out. I heard a man’s voice behind me and I knew it was him.

There are no guidebooks on how to prepare for that first awkward meeting. There is no Web site that will tell a reappearing father what to expect or how to act when he and his son meet for the first time since his childhood. And what about those crucial first words? “Hey, son, how are you?” “Long time, no see.” Or: “I’m sorry, son. It was not your fault.” It is a moment that a father, possibly defensive, and a son, probably resentful, have played out in their minds for years. We had to tread carefully.

There are millions of absent fathers; there are at least that many children out there who are wondering who their fathers are. Barack Obama recalled in “Dreams From My Father” that when he was small, his father just vanished. “It was into my father’s image ... that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself,” he wrote. When Mr. Obama was told that his father had died, he said, “I felt no pain, only the vague sense of an opportunity lost.”

My son was not going to miss his opportunity. I had tried to make contact a few years earlier but it was not the right time. His best friend had just lost his brother to a roadside bomb in Iraq. But the hours he spent helping his friend try to make sense of what had happened got him to thinking. “I realized it can all end so suddenly,” he told me later. “There were some things I realized I wanted to get done and one of them was to know who my father was.” That death and my previous unanswered attempt to make contact were the forces that caused him to make his own move. He greeted me with a firm handshake and a strong voice. But it was not until later that I recognized him as my onetime 10-year-old buddy.

So that first evening, we met as strangers. Our wives were present, necessary buttresses for this delicate moment. He spoke first: “I recognize you from the white hair.”

“Yeah, like a beacon in a fog-bound channel,” I said.

He had once seen me on CNN in a hotel in India and thought, “Jeez, that’s my father.” But he had already known I existed, for his mother often said, in a fit of pique I would imagine, “You’re just like your father!” The first he knew I was still among the living was when he noticed a book with my name on it on a table in Barnes & Noble, and he wondered if the author was his old man. He saw the photo on the jacket and he knew. When he read a reference to himself in the book it was then that he realized that he had never been forgotten.

The evening was strained but friendly enough that we agreed to meet again the next day in Central Park. Our wives walked behind us as he and I spoke about his work, about mine. His wife said, “Look, they even walk the same way,” and indeed I am told our mannerisms, the way we move our hands when we speak, even our voices are similar.

“Why did you leave?” he asked me suddenly, a question I had expected, but still had some trouble answering. I had come from a dysfunctional family, exiled to boarding schools at a punishingly early age, and instead of going to college, I bolted down to the Brooklyn docks and signed on a merchant ship. I had not been groomed to know much about the obligations of a dad. As Mr. Obama has said, fathers often “abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men.”

“I thought of myself as a seaman,” I said. “It was not your mother and it was not you, I just had no sense of responsibility. I just dropped out, sailed away. I’m sorry... You must still be very angry, have a lot of resentment.”

“I got over that years ago,” he said. “Maybe some resentment. You know I don’t need a father now, something I didn’t have; I only wanted to know who you were.”

Late at night in the apartment of my sister, whom he had also not seen since he was a child, he asked other questions. About other marriages, about other children, and I bared all. There was no reason to lie, no reason to hold back. I wanted him to judge me. His condemnation would free me of my new responsibilities. His forgiveness might allow me to try to become the father I never was. It was his call. After my wife had gone to bed, I answered all his questions, in detail. Indeed, he and his wife now know more about me than my own wife, more than any living person. And my son was, on that night, still a stranger.

There must be so many absent fathers, burdened with guilt, regret, defiance and defensiveness, who like me wonder who their sons are now that they are grown men. And if they consider making that first move, they surely speculate about that first meeting: could it be anything but confrontation, his anger, his sorrow, his pain? These things do not always turn out well.

It is too late to pick up where we left off so many years ago and I certainly won’t make the mistake of now acting like a dad. But there is a chance we might at least become friends, even one day feel the love we had for each other when he was a little boy. The relationship is still fragile but we are in contact; I think that we will slowly, cautiously build something lasting. There is some hope. On our last evening together, just before I had to return to Europe, we faced each other awkwardly and then hugged. Not a hail-fellow-well-met hug, but a serious bloodline hug, and I felt for the first time in 27 years something I had forgotten existed.

It looks as if my boy turned out O.K. The credit goes to his mom. He is a sort of a geek working on fiber-optic technology. He’s a good-looking kid and I admire him not only for what he has overcome and become without the benefit of a father, but also for his courage to contact his grateful dad.


John S. Burnett,

the author of “Where Soldiers Fear to Tread:

A Relief Worker’s Tale of Survival,”

runs the Web site ModernPiracy.com.

    Father Meets Son, NYT, 21.6.2009,






Op-Ed Contributor

Son Meets Father


June 21, 2009
The New York Times


Alexandria, Va.

LATE last year, while resting in my hotel room on a business trip to India, I saw my father being interviewed on CNN International; this was the first time I had seen him or heard his voice in 27 years.

The coincidence intrigued me enough to attempt to contact him and after I returned to the States, I spent the next few days trying various combinations of e-mail addresses until I finally hit upon the right one, and received a response. Before I knew it, we had set a date in February to meet. I was about to find myself face to face with a man who was more influential in his absence than he could have been in his presence.

My mother struggled to raise my younger brother and me on her own; in one way or another we always got by without our father. We had what we needed. We went to great schools. We spent the summers with our grandparents. We were good children, relatively speaking. My mother always let me think I was the man of the house, but everyone else knew differently. When I was asked by a guest if I was the “man of the house” my brother piped up and said, “The man of this house is a woman.” She was and she was all we had, and my brother and I knew it. And though she did what she could to make up for the absence of a father, for me, the absence was inescapable.

As a child, I waited for my father to contact me; as a teenager, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. So as an adult I wanted closure. I wasn’t interested in retribution or making him feel sorry for leaving because somehow I knew he wasn’t sorry at all.

I knew as well that I was not in search of a “Father” or seeking advice or absolution. I surely didn’t expect him to fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness at the sight of his long-slighted son. Nor did I expect him to act any differently than he did.

As the date for our meeting neared, I tried to remember the endless list of questions that, as a boy, I promised myself I would ask him if I ever had the chance. But the truth was that the answers to these questions weren’t important to me anymore. I had either answered them for myself or asked them of others.

I realized, though, that I wanted to find the man — not the mythical figure my father had become over the years. I had heard so many fantastic stories and I didn’t know what to believe: tales of sailing solo across oceans, thwarting a band of pirates aboard his small boat in the Strait of Malacca, doing relief work in Somalia, writing a screenplay for David Bowie. I needed to know who this guy really was.

We met in a hotel lobby. After we dispatched with the initial pleasantries, we headed straight for the bar. Over drinks and dinner, we nervously chatted about the past 27 years. The conversation focused on the superficial similarities that a father and son might share. Still, the mundane chitchat, which most fathers and sons must take for granted, was, in hindsight, what I really wanted.

And so it went for the weekend. I asked questions, he answered. I listened to him talk about previous marriages and relationships, other children he’d fathered, his feelings for my mother — things he wasn’t very comfortable talking about. I began to see the mythical character as a man. I learned that he is as fragile as he was powerful in a young son’s eyes. Toward the end he asked if I would call him Dad; I cannot. But now that I know more about him, we can move forward.

I am still digesting our reunion and will be for quite some time. While he is no longer this mythical figure in my life, he is who he is and I am who I am, partly because of his absence. Already, though, I feel relieved and free to move forward.

I have always wanted to be a father and a husband. I want to be there for those who count on me and I want to be counted on. I have made a good life for myself in the suburbs of Washington. I am married and still very close to my brother and our mother. While I am hopeful that my new relationship with my father is a lasting one, I learned the closure that I needed comes from relationships that I had all along.


Jason Burnett is a telecommunications engineer.

    Son Meets Father, NYT, 21.6.2009,






Iowa Man Wonders

if Mystery Visitor Is Missing Son


June 17, 2009
Filed at 4:31 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEWTON, Iowa (AP) -- When a mysterious visitor showed up last fall at Jerry Damman's Iowa farm, there wasn't any reason for him to suspect it was the toddler son who long ago vanished from a stroller in front of a New York bakery.

After all, five decades of silence have passed, each of them bringing no new leads about the fate of his blond 2-year-old boy, Stephen.

Damman's wife directed the man to a neighboring farm where her husband was working, but the man never showed up to speak with him. The couple dismissed the visit at the time. Damman now wonders if that visitor could have been his son, a grown man from Michigan who recently told the FBI that he was the missing child taken so many years ago.

''It's just one of those things, you know. Nothing's happened all those years,'' the 78-year-old Damman said Tuesday. ''You don't figure it's going to now, but maybe it did.''

The man's identity hasn't been released, but an official familiar with the investigation said he believes he never fit in with the family in which he grew up and began researching missing persons cases around the nation. That's how the man learned of the Damman case, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the claim was still under investigation.

Nassau County Police Lt. Kevin Smith said the case was referred to the FBI in Detroit and authorities are awaiting DNA results to determine if the man's claim is true.

''To a certain extent, this would probably close it,'' said Damman. ''Just like a death gives you closure, you know sometimes, it will give you closure to know what happened.''

Jerry Damman and his wife, Charlotte -- who is not Stephen Damman's mother -- said they've often thought back to the stranger's visit to their farm and his decision not to identify himself. The missing child's sister also got a visit from the same man, they said. ''She looked at this guy, and he looked like Jerry,'' Charlotte Damman said.

Investigators learned that the Michigan man reached out to the woman he believed to be his sister, Smith said, and that the two conducted a private DNA test that found they could be related. The FBI is conducting its own tests, Smith said.

''He came all the way down from Michigan,'' Jerry Damman said. ''I don't know if he was kind of timid about it. He probably was.''

Damman said he has tried to call the man twice since a report of his claim was published Tuesday in the New York Daily News. Jerry and the missing child's mother divorced a few years after their son's kidnapping. His ex-wife could not be located to talk about the case.

Jerry Damman was working at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island when his son disappeared. His wife, Marilyn, left Stephen and 7-month-old daughter, Pamela, waiting outside a bakery while she went inside to shop on Oct. 31, 1955, according to Smith and news accounts from 1955.

''Back in that time, it was probably not that uncommon to do something like that,'' Smith said.

After 10 minutes, Marilyn came out of the bakery but could not find the stroller or her children, authorities said. The stroller, with only her daughter inside, was found around the corner from the market a short time later, authorities said.

More than 2,000 people searched for 28 hours without finding Stephen. The county's assistant chief inspector, Leslie W. Pearsall, called off the search, saying that the boy's disappearance had become ''a case for detectives only,'' according to 1955 story in The New York Times.

The family received a ransom note in mid-November, according to an Associated Press account. Stephen's parents also made a public plea to the kidnappers at the time, saying Stephen suffered from anemia and asking that he receive medicine that included vitamins, aspirin and a tonic, the Times reported.

Today, the spot where Stephen was taken is a Waldbaum's supermarket at a busy strip-mall intersection. The report has stunned residents old enough to remember the futile search for the toddler.

Joan Bookbinder, 81, was a few years older than Damman's mother in 1955. She said it was common at that time to leave babies outside in their carriages while shopping.

''They would all be lined up outside the supermarket,'' Bookbinder said while standing outside the market. ''We never worried. We never thought about it.''

Everything changed after the toddler was kidnapped.

''We never left the carriages outside again,'' she said. ''All I remember is the fear amongst the mothers.''


Associated Press writers Frank Eltman and Amy Westfeldt

in New York and Nigel Duara in Iowa

and AP researcher Susan James contributed to this report.

Iowa Man Wonders if Mystery Visitor Is Missing Son,
NYT, 19.6.2009,







British Boy Becomes Father at 13


February 13, 2009
Filed at 12:32 p.m. ET
The New York Times


LONDON (AP) -- A 13-year-old boy pictured in a British tabloid cradling an infant is reportedly one of the country's youngest-known fathers.

Baby-faced and only 4 feet (1.22 meters) tall, the boy, Alfie, was just 12 when he impregnated Chantelle, now 15, The Sun said. Shown in a video posted Friday to the tabloid's Web site, Alfie looks more like he's 8 -- not 13 -- as he takes the newborn girl in his arms.

Asked what he would do to support the child financially, Alfie asks in a high-pitched voice, ''What does financially mean?''

The girl was reportedly taking birth control pills but missed one, the newspaper reported. Friends and relatives left the family home near Eastbourne, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of London, without speaking to reporters waiting outside Friday. The teenagers could not immediately be contacted.

The Sun did not say whether any tests were conducted to prove the boy's paternity.

Police and child services in Eastbourne, in southeast England, said in a statement that they were ''aware of a 14-year-old girl that had become pregnant as the result of a relationship with a 12-year-old boy,'' adding that they were offering support to both young people.

Alfie's front page picture has sparked renewed debate about teen pregnancy in Britain. The country has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe, and government figures show that about 39,000 girls under age 18 became pregnant in 2006. More than 7,000 of those girls were younger than 16.

''I don't know the individual details of the case, but of course I think all of us would want to avoid teenage pregnancies,'' Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Friday.

Britain had 27 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 between 2000 and 2005, according to a report published by Population Action International. Comparable figures are 10 per 1,000 for Spain, 8 in 1,000 for France, and 5 in 1,000 for The Netherlands.

Britain's teen pregnancy rate, however, is still far below that of the United States, which registers 44 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 and are more line with English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand, which have 17 and 27 births per 1,000 women between 15 and 19, according to the report.

In a controversial move last year to tackle the high teen pregnancy rates, British education officials announced they would start introducing sex education earlier in English schools. Beginning next year, children as young as kindergarten age will be given basic sex education.

Local lawmaker Nigel Waterson called the situation ''a very sad story which will have a huge impact on both the parents and the child,'' adding that it raised ''huge questions'' about the sexualization of children in British society and the effectiveness of the country's sex education.

The Sun said Chantelle gave birth Monday and that the newborn and her mother were released from the hospital Thursday.

In its profile, The Sun described Alfie as a boy whose voice has not broken yet and likes things boys usually like -- computer games and soccer.

''I thought it would be good to have a baby. I didn't really think about how we would afford it,'' The Sun quoted Alfie as saying. ''I don't really get pocket money. My dad sometimes gives me 10 pounds (about $15).''

Alfie's father, Dennis -- who reportedly has nine children -- said his son told him it was the first time he had sex. He was reportedly allowed to sleep over at the girl's house.

''It hasn't really dawned on him,'' Patten, 45, was quoted as saying in The Sun.

''I will talk to him again and it will be the birds and bees talk,'' he said. ''Some may say it's too late but he needs to understand so there is not another baby.''

Britain's youngest-known father was said to be a 12-year-old boy in a suburb north of London who impregnated a young neighbor in 1998.

Boys can usually impregnate a girl when they reach puberty, which is normally between the ages of 9 and 13.


On the Net:


Report: British Boy Becomes Father at 13,
world/AP-EU-Britain-Father-at-13.html - broken link






Dad Makes Son

Wear Sign for Using Drugs


April 20, 2007

Filed at 2:51 a.m. ET

The New York Times



KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A father says he wasn't trying to shame his 14-year-old son when he made the boy wear a large sandwich-board sign saying, ''I abused and sold drugs.''

''I'm not out here doing this to humiliate my son,'' the father told WATE-TV as the teenager walked up and down the sidewalk Wednesday in front of Cedar Bluff Middle School.

''I'm doing this because I love him,'' he said. ''We do have an extreme drug problem in America, and maybe it's time for extreme measures that parents need to take to monitor this problem that we have.''

The man wasn't identified by the station to protect the confidentiality of the son, but he appeared on camera. The son's face was not shown.

The father said he recently learned after reading the boy's MySpace page that his son was involved with marijuana and OxyContin. That's when he decided to act, and the boy agreed to the punishment.

After a short time, the school's principal soon came out and asked the father to call it off, which he did.

By then the boy said he'd learned his lesson. ''This is embarrassing. I ain't going to be doing it again,'' the boy said. ''Drugs are for losers. That's all I can say.''

Information from: WATE-TV, http://www.wate.com/

Dad Makes Son Wear Sign for Using Drugs,






Jane Wyatt,

Mother on ‘Father Knows Best,’



October 23, 2006

The New York Times



Jane Wyatt, who reigned as America’s ideal suburban mom during the 1950’s when she starred with Robert Young in the television sitcom “Father Knows Best” and who nearly lured Ronald Colman away from diplomacy and into a lamasery in Frank Capra’s 1937 film “Lost Horizon,” died on Friday at her home in Bel Air, Calif. She was 95.

Her death was confirmed by her publicist Meg McDonald, The Associated Press reported.

A petite, attractive brunette, Ms. Wyatt found it hard to avoid being typecast and wound up playing quite a few of what she described as “good wives of good men,” though she confessed she would have been happier “playing the murderer or the heavy.” She did get to play a few offbeat roles on stage and screen. In Philip Barry’s wryly titled play “The Joyous Season” (1934), she was a moody member of a family seething with petty feuds. As the wife of an attorney (Dana Andrews) in the 1947 film “Boomerang,” she became embroiled in the corruption surrounding a notorious murder. And in Lillian Hellman’s “Autumn Garden,” on Broadway in 1951, she was married to an indolent drifter (Fredric March) for whom she felt nothing but contempt.

For the most part, however, as she shuttled between Hollywood and Broadway, she was called upon to be loyal, loving and courageous. In “None but the Lonely Heart,” a 1944 film starring Cary Grant and Ethel Barrymore, she was an adoring musician who pined for an indifferent Grant. She was cast as a courageous nurse in “Canadian Pacific” (1949); as the faithful, supportive wife of a naval airman (Gary Cooper) in “Task Force” (1949); and as a happily married (to David Wayne) mother of five in “My Blue Heaven” (1950).

Her Broadway credits included “Night Music” (1940), by Clifford Odets, a Group Theater production directed by Harold Clurman, in which she played a young woman who finds the love of her life in New York; and “Hope for the Best” (1945), by William McCleery, with Ms. Wyatt as a factory worker who helps a popular columnist (Franchot Tone) see the light of liberalism.

Jane Waddington Wyatt was born on Aug. 12, 1911, in Campgaw, N.J., into a family of distinguished lineage and grew up in New York City. Her father was an investment banker, her mother a writer for Commonweal and other publications. She attended the Chapin School and studied at Barnard College for two years before joining the apprentice school at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Mass. Back in New York she found work as an understudy in a Broadway show, and her name was removed from the New York Social Register. Clearly, the wicked stage was no place for proper young ladies.

Not daunted, she continued to audition and soon made her Broadway debut in 1931 in A. A. Milne’s “Give Me Yesterday,” as the daughter of an ambitious British politician (Louis Calhern). She achieved a breakthrough of sorts in 1933 when she succeeded Margaret Sullavan in “Dinner at Eight,” the hit comedy by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, and then toured in the show, leading to a contract offer from Universal and her Hollywood debut in “One More River” (1934), based on John Galsworthy’s last novel.

Ms. Wyatt said at one point that her favorite film role had been in “Task Force,” opposite Gary Cooper, but she is probably best remembered for her work in “Lost Horizon,” based on the novel by James Hilton and directed by Frank Capra. Most of the film’s action takes place in Tibet in a fabled region called Shangri-La, ruled by an ancient High Lama. A plane crash brings a small group of Westerners led by a British diplomat Bob Conway (Ronald Colman) to the lamasery. There, Colman meets and is entranced by Sondra (Ms. Wyatt), an attractive young woman who has grown up in Shangri-La. The High Lama is looking for a successor, Sondra is looking for love, and the Colman character must choose whether to stay or return to the war-torn world beyond the mountains. Critics agreed that Ms. Wyatt was luminous in the role.

Ms. Wyatt had already made a number of appearances in television dramas before she joined the cast of “Father Knows Best” in 1954. The show followed the lives of the Anderson family in the Midwestern town of Springfield, with Robert Young as Jim Anderson, Ms. Wyatt as his wife, Margaret, and their three children, two of them teenagers. Family crises arose — a son’s first dance, a daughter’s first crush — and were firmly but lovingly resolved. When CBS dropped the show in 1955 there were so many protests from viewers that NBC was persuaded to pick it up. “Father Knows Best” returned to CBS for the 1959-1960 season, its final run of new episodes. The show brought Ms. Wyatt three Emmy Awards. In 1977 she returned to the role, this time as a grandmother, in two made-for-television movies, “The Father Knows Best Reunion” and “Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas.”

Ms. Wyatt married Edgar Bethune Ward in 1935. He died in 2000. She is survived by their two sons, Christopher Ward of Piedmont, Calif., and Michael Ward of Los Angeles; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

One of her more offbeat television parts was that of Amanda, the human mother of Mr. Spock, the pointy-eared Vulcan member of the “Star Trek” crew of space voyagers in the late 1960’s. She reprised the role in the 1986 film, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”

Jane Wyatt, Mother on ‘Father Knows Best,’ Dies,










Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia





men, women,

gender identity,

glass ceiling, feminism,


gay / LGBTQ rights,

human connection,



dating, love, sex,

marriage, divorce




home Up