Honoring my Father

December 21, 2012

When I heard the muffled sound of the garage door rising I would drop my blocks and my Legos and run for the door, shouting “Daddy!” as I leapt into my father’s arms, taking in the smell of snow and faded cologne.

We had a ritual, my father and I, and as he washed up for dinner and changed from his suit into a v-neck sweater I would bring him a Johnnie Walker Black Label over ice.  I did this since I was five or six years old, and as I stood at the threshold of his bathroom as he splashed his face with water over the sink I could smell the scotch melting and mingling with the solid cubes.  He would turn to me and ask if I wanted a sip, and like a miniature priest I received the first fruits of my father’s spirited libation.

“Promise me you’ll always drink good scotch,” my father said in what I believe was the only promise he ever asked of me.

We buried my father on December 3rd on an atypically mild, albeit atmospherically rainy, Chicago Monday.  As I watched the casket lower into the good earth I knew one simple thing:  I am alive.

One thinks about the day one’s parents will die.  One may imagine what it will be like, but you really cannot guess for certain what it will be like for you, or what you will feel.

I stood shoulder to shoulder with my brother, Jordan, at the cemetery and our bond was clear and our love dear.

Some of the clumpy clay that I shoveled from a pile onto the lid remains caked to my black boots, themselves still enshrouded in soft velvet travel bags, now in my closet in Los Angeles.

One time, in the early 1980’s, my father was in New York on business and I was a student in film school.  He told me to meet him at 21, the famous restaurant on 52nd Street.  “Wear a jacket,” he said.

It was summer.  I’d like to think it was June 21st, as it would be poetic if that were true, seeing as I post these words on the winter solstice.

My dad and I drank scotch, and ate steak, and sat at a table right next to Diana Ross.  We had more scotch, and maybe there was dessert and we talked a long time and we laughed a lot and we were both happy.

I suppose a man’s relationship with his father is a complicated bit of business; at least it was for me.  “Honor thy mother and father,” is something I hope to do by holding onto the best parts of my dad and by striving to be a good ancestor to my kids, to all those I hope to assist in whatever way I can, and to those who will come later, be they biological or spiritual offspring of our time, of our living and learning and loving together in this life.

Beyond my biological parents, when I think of “Mother” I think of matter, of earth, carbon and the constellation of the tangible; when I think of “Father” I think of light, waves and spirit.  When I think of the Divine I try, but fail, to imagine the paradox of these opposites, forever ebbing and transforming, being at once spirit and matter in the eternal flux.

This year I lost a spirit father, lost a friend, published a book, turned 52 in Zurich, drank Prosecco in hill towns in Umbria, launched a child to college, saw my other son learn to drive, graduated from a very good therapy and buried my dad.

A few weeks before my dad died I found myself weeping hard in my office.  Sometimes we know things before we officially know them.  I surrendered to my grief, as has become my habit when dark and drizzly storm fronts move through my soul, and a soft realization emerged in the wake of the melancholy:  I love.

I am alive and I love.

I don’t think this is unique, but I do think it is special and precious and worth knowing.  On this winter solstice, or whenever you may happen across these words, I hope that you know that you are alive and that you love.  I hope you realize that this is enough.

I hope you are my friend in spirit, as my worst dread is to be utterly and unspeakably alone, but perhaps so long as we are alive and we love we shall discover that we are not alone—even if at times what promises to most deeply bind and bond us is our sense of aloneness.

While my father could be difficult, I owe a great deal to him and with his passing I find myself loving him without conflict; I see the turbulence of misunderstandings and mixed messages settling like sand in a lake and the clarity of love moving strong and true like that river in Wyoming we once fished together, along with my sons.

After dinner at 21 my father and I walked down Fifth Avenue together, perhaps weaving just a bit thanks to that good scotch whiskey, on a soft summer night.  And on this the shortest day of the year in our northern hemisphere I choose to remember my father, and honor him, in the spirit of a long and well-lived summer’s day.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese December 21, 2012 at 10:27 am

Dear Bruce,

Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection on life and love and honoring the light and dark we all share. Thanks too for contributing greatly to my own sense of not-aloneless these past few years. I consider you a dear friend, both of the spirit and of the heart.

May your father rest in peace and may the lessons you learned from him – I don’t know anything about Scotch, but I’ve certainly heard worse advice – echo through the generations of your family.

On this darkest day, I light a candle for you, your mom, Jordan, Andy, and the boys.

Sending love from the Midwest,


mark December 21, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Iam definitely getting more sentimental as I get older.Your writing really touched me.After seeing Limor go threw the grieving process losing her father last year and seeing my own dad get more and more frail, I am finally starting to get what’s important in life.


Pamela December 22, 2012 at 5:24 am

Thank you Bruce for your beautiful words. I am so happy you are back here on the page although you have never left my heart as every one of your posts rings true with “I am alive and I love.” If enough is as good as a feast than this is the most grand feast. Thank you and I wish you peace and joy in this upcoming year.


Meagan December 22, 2012 at 5:46 am

What a beautiful way to honor your father. What an amazing gift you give to those of us who have an opportunity to read it. Living and loving are colorful activities. Your writing and your perspective remind me to be comfortable with the colors…in whatever shade they appear. I am grateful you are living, loving, and writing about all of it. Blessings to you and your family.


Laurie December 22, 2012 at 8:56 am

Lovely. He lives on through you. I chuckled at his only advice he ever gave was to never drink cheap scotch. So true. Love to you and your family this season.


Wolf Pascoe December 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Where you sing your pain, that place is a temple. (Bhuddist)
All blessings.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri December 22, 2012 at 7:44 pm


These words and your imagery hit me where it matters. The particular line that resonated is this one, “Sometimes we know things before we officially know them.”

I appreciate this wonderful tribute of loss, love, sadness, and happiness. Thank you Bruce for your willingness to share what shapes your dark and light.

Best, Rudri


Laura December 26, 2012 at 4:32 am

The world changes when someone we love is gone doesn’t it? Those life-filled photos and beautifully written words bring back that world for all of us, just for a moment. Thank you.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: