Foster: Trying to be like my dad

Foster: Trying to be like my dad

June 19th, 2011 by J. Todd Foster in Opinion Columns

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about my dad. He passed away nine years ago come August, and his grave is the only one I've ever visited.

Dad (technically he was my stepfather) taught me much: He introduced me to golf and the joy of veering off the course to hunt battered Titleists for an hour. He enticed me to eat guacamole (hated it the first time, like it now). He took me to my first R-rated movie, Bruce Lee's "Fist of Fury."

Mostly, though, he just loved me.

In 30 years, he got mad at me only once, and that was because I ran over his prized toolbox. I defused the situation by reminding him that it was he who left it in the driveway.

He got slightly peeved at me another time: When I was in high school, I injured my big toe and was laid up a couple of days one summer. Dad trudged up and down the steps to bring me three squares a day. On the second day, he asked me how I hurt my toe. My answer, "Kicking [my brother] Jeff," did not sit well.

Mostly, dad taught me the medicinal qualities of laughter. His sense of humor was drier than a July day in Coolidge Park.

In August 2002, as he was wasting away with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, dad sat with me through an episode of "CSI." It was about a male serial killer who longed to get a sex change.

"Dad, what would you have done if I told you I wanted to be a woman?" I asked, hoping to stump the quickest-witted man I've ever known.

He answered instantly: "I'd have bought you a dress."

Dad also could laugh at himself.

One day he made his prized banana pudding but left out one important ingredient: the bananas. It was the best meringue I've ever eaten.

Dad taught me that the grief over a dog's death can be as poignant as our sadness when a human dies.

He helped me build my own football goal posts when I was 13. They were made from three skinny trees and were NFL-regulation size.

He was the best husband I've ever known - the husband I have never been. I'm still holding out hope that I can be the father to my own boys - Tyler, 8, and Jake, 6 - that he was to me.

When I eulogized him in September 2002, I said he was the finest man I had ever known.

He still is.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

J. Todd Foster is executive editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press and can be reached at or 423-757-6472. You can follow him on Twitter at jtoddctfp.