Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I have to confess. I'm not much of a television watcher, and I'm sure not a Sunday morning television watcher. When my mom told me that Tim Russert had passed away, I had to think for a minute to remember who Tim Russert was.

Nevertheless, I'm fascinated by the stories of people's lives- who they are, what experiences shaped them, who they love, etc. Last weekend, then, I picked up BIG RUSS AND ME, the story of Tim Russert's relationship with his father. Russert grew up in a working class neighborhood in South Buffalo. His father, Big Russ, always held two jobs. First, he was a garbage collector and later a supervisor in the Sanitation Department. Then he drove a truck that delivered the newspaper in Buffalo. Tim grew up attending parochial schools. He talks again and again about the teachers, the nuns and priests that mentored and shaped him into the scholar, the thinker, and the man he became. 

In some ways, Russert's upbringing reminds me of my own. Big Russ believed in hard work, and discipline. Tim knew that the teachers/coaches/bosses were always right, and if he got in trouble at school, he would be in twice as much trouble at home. Big Russ, however, was also man who loved his wife and his kids, and who laughed often. Hearing people talk about Tim Russert in the past few weeks, it would appear that he inherited all of these qualities from his dad.

Most of all, Big Russ was a man of huge integrity. When I talk about integrity with my boys (and we talk about this subject on an almost daily basis) , I always tell them that everyone in your life- your family, your coaches, your teachers, your friends, the salesclerk at the grocery store- would describe you in the same way, and that you make the right choices and do the right thing whether or not anyone is watching you. My dad, as imperfect and human as he was, was a man of huge integrity. I hope I inherited this quality, and I hope I pass it to my guys. 

This book has made me laugh and cry. Big Russ reminds me of my dad- how hard he worked, how little he said,  and how much he loved us. He's been gone almost fifteen years.… 

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