In Honor of My Father
By Kole Norberg
Today is Father's Day.
According to my father, today is right up there with Thanksgiving, and he often wishes it shared the same dinner menu.
My father is writer John Norberg. He has worn many occupational hats during his writing career: reporter, author, ghost writer, speechwriter, and even business man, but the one hat that has remained constant is columnist. Every week for more than a quarter of century he has written about what it's like to be a dad, a husband and, more recently, a granddad. This week I'm writing about what it's like to be his child.
In June of 1981, my dad became convinced that I would be born on Father's Day. I can see him on the day asking my mother if she is certain her water hasn't broken. Much to his dismay, I wouldn't be born for another two weeks. This may be when he started calling me the "Poky Little Puppy."
When you have a writer for a father, you tend to hear the story of your birth more than once and in great detail.
It had been storming the night before. Tornadoes had whipped through the streets, toppling trees. There were acorns, everywhere. At mid-day the pavement had yet to dry from the heavy rain. He was on the other side of town when he got the call from my mom, telling him he had better get home quickly. Naturally he rushed to his car, threw the key in the ignition, slammed on the gas and ten yards later hit the breaks as he was stopped by one of those old mile-long freight trains. He began to worry, okay he continued to worry, but eventually my dad made it home to find my mom waiting for him in the other car and they were off to the hospital.
My Dad didn't let my mom, or I, down then, and it's a tradition he's held ever since.
My dad is Scandinavian, and I've learned that keeping tradition is a Scandinavian tradition. He writes a lot about the Norberg traditions in his weekly columns, but I believe he's forgotten to mention one of his biggest traditions -- worrying.
Let me explain. According to my dad, it's a father's job to worry. And he does worry. If worrying were an Olympic sport, he'd bring home the Gold.
He worries if I sneeze, if the roads are wet, if I have enough money, if I'll use that money to go scuba diving with sea snakes, that sort of thing. My grandmother says having a child triples the amount of worry in your life, or so she told me after telling me the story about how my father at age 20 telegrammed home to say he'd be running with bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and never telegrammed back to let her know he survived.
If you triple your worries when you have children, then it's understandable that my father worries so much. He's a Cub's fan. Even before he became a father, he had a lot to worry about.
Another one of my Dad's well-known traditions is eating ice cream. For several years I worked at the Walt Disney World Resort, and every now and then I would get a call from my dad inquiring if I've had a Mickey bar recently.
"You can't go to the parks and not get a Mickey bar," he tells me. "It sacrilegious; more important, it's TRADITION." I'm beginning to think tradition for my father is a way to justify eating things that are not approved by the Atkins diet, but it isn't the only excuse he has found for eating ice cream.
Often, when I was growing up, we would find the car driving itself miles in the wrong direction and parking at the Frozen Custard, a local soft-serve ice cream drive-up. Of course once there, it was necessary to eat some ice cream -- at least for the car's sake. At times I believe that if you were to ask my dad about the state of the world, he would say most problems could be settled if everyone would just sit down and have a bowl of ice cream. Chocolate syrup might be needed for some of life's tougher challenges.
Everyone thinks their family is crazy, and most families probably are. When you're a teen-ager, you cringe at your parents singing songs in front of jack-o-lanterns or reciting all the verses to Davy Crockett as you drive through Tennessee.
As an adult you find that these traditions are a source of pride. When my grandfather was a boy, he had a tradition of reciting a poem by James Russell Lowell on June 1st of every year: "And what is so rare as a day in June if ever come perfect days." Now my dad carries on the tradition, and someday I will carry it on as well.
Dad, I've learned so much from your example. I'm proud to have you as a father and enjoy every chance I get to pass on the humorous stories and lessons you've taught me. You've always believed in me and supported my ambitions. Most importantly, you've taught me how to laugh and make people laugh in return.
That's a tradition I hope never fades away. I love you, and in honor of all the traditions you've passed on to me, I've gotten you a traditional Father's Day gift; I hope you enjoy your new tie.
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