Archives for posts with tag: Tom Junod

Tom Junod profiles Mr. Rodgers. Epic. For someone that grew up watching the children’s television show, Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood, on a regular basis, this article was time machine of happy memories. I highly recommend you pour yourself a cup of the black and read this. You will be a different person after.

For those without the time or want a preview, I leave you with these.

Tom Junod:

At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn’t leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, “I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?” On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said, “I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?” And now the boy didn’t know how to respond. He was thunderstruck.

The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn’t know if he could do it, he said he would, he said he’d try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn’t talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures Mister Rogers is close to God, and if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean God likes him, too.

His acceptance speech upon winning his third Emmy award:

 “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are … Ten seconds of silence.” And then he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, “I’ll watch the time,” and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked … and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds … and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said, “May God be with you” to all his vanquished children.

Speaking directly to the author of the article:

This man, Fred Rogers, didn’t want to go to heaven; he wanted to live in heaven, here, now, in this world, and so one day, when he was talking about all the people he had loved in this life, he looked at me and said, “The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is, Tom. We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us—I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it.”

On continual prayer and thanksgiving:

Fred never stopped looking at her or let go of her hand. “It’s not a performance. It’s just a meeting of friends,” he said. He moved his hand from her wrist to her palm and extended his other hand to me. I took it and then put my hand around her free hand. His hand was warm, hers was cool, and we bowed our heads, and closed our eyes, and I heard Deb’s voice calling out for the grace of God. What is grace? I’m not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever. I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it … and it hit me, right then, with my eyes closed, that this was the moment Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—had been leading me to from the moment he answered the door of his apartment in his bathrobe and asked me about Old Rabbit. Once upon a time, you see, I lost something, and prayed to get it back, but when I lost it the second time, I didn’t, and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I’d been waiting to say a very long time.

“Thank you, God,” Mister Rogers said.

via Pittsburgh in Words

Author Eric Puchner published an essay in GQ chronicling his relationship with his father:

This is not about forgiveness. I still think about that day at the beach, or the fact that my father abandoned me for so long—years with hardly a phone call—and my heart clenches with rage. We live in the age of forgiveness, of bailouts, of doing our best to move on. Too often these gestures have only to do with creating a nice tidy narrative, one we can wrap up and hide away somewhere and promise ourselves will never happen again. We choose the myth over reality every time. It’s the Californian—which is to say, the American—way.

Contrasting Tom Junod’s father profile, Puchner’s essay focuses on the inequities.  It highlights just how friggin’ important those early years really are. Remind me to read this again when I have a teenage kid just to remember what’s really important.

By the end I had more loot than I could carry, and yet my father persisted, giving me for once what I wanted, collecting a bounty he didn’t have to buy.

The things we all wanted from our fathers are the things that can’t be bought. And the things we need to give to our sons are the same, our time, not our wallets.

This essay, written by Tom Junod was originally published in GQ in 1996.  It was then republished in 2007.  It gives a glimpse into the relationship of a father and son through the filter of grooming tips passed from generation to generation. It’s a great read and I encourage printing it out and reading it in the sun, to help “get that glow”

He has nothing else now, except his family, which has become everything to him, while I have this, this urge not to sing but to somehow speak and tell…except that of course in the end writing is the same as wearing clothes: You do it to have some say over how you look to the world, and you wind up revealing precisely what you’ve hidden, and more than you will ever know.

And…

He was determined to make his mark, and God, he did, and now, as I walk into my life I walk into his, into the gift he gave me, his first and final fashion tip: the knowledge that a man doesn’t belong to anyone. That he belongs to his secrets. That his secrets belong to him.

Don’t forget it.