It is said that life is full of strange bounces. No kidding.
Seven months ago, mine was a bad hop grounder that went between my
legs and rolled all the way to the outfield fence.
That's when I lost my job. After nearly 35 years in the
newspaper business, I found myself without a deadline to meet.
I was one of some 22 million Americans out of work in a sour
economy. I wondered why, if there were that many people looking for
work, I felt so alone.
Instead of the office, my day was at home, on the computer,
sending e-mails and making phone calls in the hope of landing a
job. I've slowly built a Rolodex of freelance contacts that have
kept me writing for about a dozen local, regional and national
newspapers and magazines on everything from lighthouses to
Luckily, my wife, Mary Ann, has a full-time job and some nights
she works part-time at a local retailer. Now we live on her income
and what little comes in from the writing gigs I'm able to drum
I've become the keeper of my 11-year-old daughter Meredith's
calendar. In my planner, there are more entries for her than for
There is gymnastics practice three days a week, CYO band
practice twice a week, a car wash fundraiser for gymnastics, band
camp, trips to the library, weekly allergy shots and trips to
friends' homes to play.
At first, I was a bit put off by all the running around. They
are huge time eaters, but in those trips-along with the many hours
we've spent together this summer-I've reconnected with my
We've developed a teasing banter that has become familiar. I kid
her about her messy room.
"Make your bed," I say.
"I know the routine," she says.
"I know that," I reply, "but when are you going to do it?"
Just before the July 4 holiday, I took Meredith on a Lake
Michigan fishing trip with a friend who allowed us to tag along. My
daughter had never been fishing and it was a joy to watch her land
her first fish.
It was one of those experiences common for fathers and sons, but
not many fathers and daughters experience.
Family friend Michelle Batacan Alexander, a psychologist and
family counselor who has a practice in Union Pier, Mich., told me
more and more dads are experiencing that kind of bonding with their
children because of the economy.
"They are seizing the moment, and it's something all dads-even
those who are working-need to find time to do," says Batacan
I nodded in agreement. There are any number of organized events
planned around the relationship between fathers and sons-camping
trips, golf outings, bowling, softball games and picnics-but not so
many for fathers and daughters.
The only thing that comes to mind is the father-daughter dance
that I took my older daughter, Erika, to years before she went off
The father-daughter relationship is overlooked. We've come a
long way in making sure daughters and sons are given plenty of
opportunity to participate in organized activities, but have our
attitudes progressed as far?
I've thought about that a lot the past few months. The time I've
spent with Meredith fixing her bike so she could ride around the
neighborhood, or watching a spider spin a web on the front yard
spruce tree, or sitting together on the couch at night watching
television, or listening as she excitedly tells me she has finally
mastered her front hand spring at gymnastics has become much more
Because of my job status, I'm not in a position to buy Meredith
a new CD or video game. I've told her why and she understands, or
least she tells me she does.
But I've also learned that the time we spend together means a
lot to her. The out-of-the-blue hug that comes at some point during
the day attests to that.
Rick A. Richards is a dad living in Michigan City, Ind.
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