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Here's Looking at You, Dad
Gordon Wright learned the most important fact of fatherhood from a father who wasn't much of one.

By Gordon Wright

My two teenage sons recently cornered me to ask what I wanted for Father's Day. A canoe trip down the Russian River? Handmade cards? A "bro tank"?

Their generosity reminded me that it is time to visit my own father, who died of hard living in 1991 at the age of 67. With his ashes scattered to the wind, the only place I can visit Gordon Wright Senior is to visit John's Grill, the venerable bar and grill off Union Square where he spent much of his workday playing dice and hustling up business for his legal practice.

John's Grill is dark, welcoming and wholly of a different generation. It's where a savagely smart, profoundly troubled man can lose himself. It is, as they say in the South, a good place to get "crying about your Daddy drunk."

But I don't imbibe at John's Grill. Usually, I just slip a $100 bill to the bartender and tell him to spend it on the regulars until it runs out. Tell them that Gordon Wright picked up the tab. Then I walk over to the northern wall in the dim light of the bar, and stand for a while staring at the photo of my dad, hung there decades ago. It was hung, I guess, to honor him as some sort of Drinking Hall of Famer.

And then I leave.

He wasn't much of a father, truth be told, though he loved me in his own way. Like many children of the '70s, my family went through a wrenching divorce, so I didn't get to see much of him after I was 12.

He didn't leave me much, either. Just that timeless photo from a bygone era. And a flannel shirt. But he did leave me with an ache in his absence and an appreciation for the daily act of fatherhood.

What do I want for Father's Day? Not a bro tank or even a handmade card. I just want to be with my two glorious sons. And I want to give them the gift of simply being there for them, even if I never get my photo on the wall of John's Grill.

With a Perspective, I'm Gordon Wright.

Gordon Wright is a publicist and freelance writer. He lives in Marin.

 

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