Hey, dad, "affection" is not a sissy word.
In these days of in-your-face bloviating and cheering the sucker-puncher, the idea of showing or expressing affection almost seems foreign. Oh, sure, we guys slap one another on the back or swat a buddy on his rear end, maybe we bear hug a pal with a grunt or exchange fist bumps but we don't seem to be living in a time where tenderness and gentility are held in high esteem, let alone practiced.
In his book "Big Russ & Me," NBC News Washington bureau chief and former moderator of "Meet the Press" Tim Russert paid homage to his father, Tim Russert Sr., or Big Russ.
He wrote, "Although Dad and I have always been close, our relationship has never been marked by open displays of affection." That changed, however, when NBC created a series of programs that followed news anchors as they returned to the communities where they grew up to talk about the values and particular culture that shaped their lives.
Russert returned to his hometown of South Buffalo, N.Y., where he met some of his dad's old buddies who never left the city. He visited the American Legion post where his dad has once served as commander.
"We pushed together some tables and sat with Dad and his buddies," writes Russert. "Dad looked into the camera and talked about the men like himself who returned home after World War II."
Russert said when his particular piece of the series aired a couple of weeks later, he was inundated with letters and calls from viewers around the country. People appreciated meeting his father through the program, and they were eager to share memories of their own dads. Many expressed regret that they had not talked with and learned more from their fathers while they were still living, and they especially thanked Russert for expressing his appreciation and love for his dad. Russert had done what so many other men had wished they had taken the time to do.
Those calls and letters made Russert realize even more how much his father meant to him and how important Big Russ was to his growth and development.
"I realized that my relationship with Big Russ had changed forever," he writes.
We think it's worth reminding all dads out there — those with fathers still living and who seldom show displays of affection toward the "old man" — to put your arm around him and tell him how much you love him. It's not an easy thing to do if you can't recall the last time you did it. But while you still can, it just may open a new door for both of you.
And, dad, show that same kind of affection for your kids. Start now while they're still young. And years from now, it will be second nature to you.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.