Dad was proud. So was I.
I had worked hard to stand on that stage.
by Greg Hague
May 1974. Washington D.C.
Law school graduation. What a magnificent day!
I felt like I’d made it in life. Such innocence. It makes me smile today. The ceremony concluded. Chubby left with me. I drove. We were alone.
My dad was normally a talkative man. Not that day. Strange? We drove blocks without saying a word. He then looked over and said, “Greg, would you like to stop for a snack?” I said, “Sure, why not.” I was always up for a snack.
We sat in a booth at a small M Street café. Memories of Perkins in earlier days. Pie and iced tea sounded nice that hot afternoon. Dad seemed edgy, something not right. Fidgety, perhaps. It was not dad.
Chubby slowly stirred sugar into his tea, looking not at the tea, but rather at me. Could I expect what would come next? Not if I’d had a lifetime to guess. I was seconds away from a punch in the gut. I’d soon learn the man I adored was hurting in an unusual way.
Chubby started to say, but suddenly stopped. He picked up his napkin. Dad dabbed a bit of moisture from the side of each eye. I remember what flashed in my mind. It was a magnificent day. What could be wrong?
Dad took a deep breath and started again,
“Greg, I am so proud. You’ve just accomplished what I never could.
College was not even an option for me. Law school would have been a laughable dream. I didn’t have grades. I didn’t have money. I lost my dad when I was just three. Since the day of your birth, I knew you could reach heights I never would. I’m so happy for you.”
I suddenly had watery eyes. Really, I welled up. It sounds stupid, but in the middle of that restaurant, I was dripping tears into my chocolate pie. This man was responsible for what, at this point, was the most magnificent day of my life. He was my mentor, my friend, my #1 cheerleader. Chubby was more than a dad.
What came next I could never have known. Did you ever see a dad’s joy make a son sad? Here’s what Chubby then said, “Greg, you will be welcomed by people and groups who would not accept me. As an attorney, you are a person they will respect. I’ve worked so hard for you to have this.”
I got it. This had never occurred to me. Dad hadn’t come from the right side of the tracks. Our city had circles of “old money”, inheritance-rich, blue-blooded men. Chubby was not one of them.
He’d worked for his bucks. He’d beat the streets. He’d labored into the night. He was not like the “country club” elite. Dad had been spurned by these “important” men. I hadn’t known. Cincinnati, Ohio could be a very mean town.
What did I learn at the M Street Café? A father’s advice had made my life great. Now, I could do something to make my father’s life better.
I committed to make Dad understand how important he was. When I was done, he’d realize those blue-bloods weren’t qualified to shine his shoes. To this day, I’ve never joined one of those “elite” clubs. If Chubby wasn’t good enough for them, they aren’t good enough for his son. Dad, that’s a tribute to you.
Your savvy today? We know kids need their dads. Sometimes, dads need their kids.