Saturday, June 19, 2010


My father was a difficult, complex man who had a brilliant mechanical mind that created many inventions. Most of his life he worked for the government starting in WW2 and then with the space program in Florida. He was charming with friends and strangers but had an angry dark side only the family saw. Today we would call his actions abusive but back in the fifties it passed as discipline. We had our differences and in his later years we finally parted company. His father died when he was fourteen and I don't think he ever got over it. He considered himself a fatherless child and often remarked that he had no background for fathering.
I became a father the first time at eighteen. My wife died in childbirth and I was totally unprepared to be a single father so for the first five years Christopher was raised by my parents. Fortune smiled on me and I got a good job and was able to bring Chris to live with me in New York City. I could afford a Nanny and I learned to be a father "on the job." Actually, I think all parents learn on the job. Back then it was unusual to see a single father and child and there wasn't much support available. That just meant we had to figure it out together.
I didn't marry again until I was forty. Julie and I had a son and daughter together. Adam and Alexandra grew up in California in our little community that eventually became a sort of creattive commune where we got together with other artists to home school our kids. It was the 1970s and the free spirit of the Love Generation inspired and infused everything. Chris was a wonderful older brother and our family enjoyed many happy times together.
Later, when my Teddybear character HUG became the spokesbear for SAVE THE CHILDREN, I joined the program and we adopted a child in China. Over the years I exchanged hundreds of letters with Tom and finally we brought him to America to become a permanent part of our family. Now he a student at Princeton.
I guess the measure of a good father is how happy his kids are. We teach what we can and they learn what they want. My daughter was her mother's child and they were always very close. But, in her teens Alexandra decided that I might have important information about men and she became much more interested in what I had to say.
I was asked once what was the greatest gift my parents gave me. I answered, "They left me alone." My parents had a terrific partnership and seemed to always be in a world all their own. They left me on my own to discover who I was and what I was going to become. That was a wonderful gift. It has always been difficult for me to step back and let my kids stumble and tumble and take risks that got them bruised. But I wanted them to have the same freedom of expression and investigation that I had enjoyed. I guess the most important thing we can do is just love them.
And now that I am a Grandfather I have new things to learn about that role. I know that I'm now allowed to spoil and indulge my Granddaughter because that's what Grandfathers do. And every now and then I get to do some babysitting -- but not often enough.
I do hope she grows up to like dolls.