June 14, 2006
This is the first Father's Day missing a key element for me — namely my Dad. A number of readers asked for a reprisal of my tribute to him and to all good dads of the world. If yours is still around, be sure to give him a big hug and tell him you love him. Then ask for the car keys or some cash.
My early psychic ability was proven by my uncanny ability to guess the correct number every time my Dad said, "I'm thinking of a number between one and 3,782." This won me the honor of fixing his drink. That same psychic ability later failed me in knowing the exact minute he would pick to leave this earth so that I could be right next to him to whisper, "I love you. Bon voyage."
His unwavering sense of loyalty extended to his vodka martini on the rocks, no fruit and his family. Once he found something he loved, he stuck with it. He managed in his own subtle and powerful way to draw all of us to him in his final days and assure that we would be present to take care of each other when our beloved patriarchal center would no longer hold. Both a blessing and a curse, my father was always surrounded by women. He told my mother, my sister, and I that he doubted all of our sanity at various times. But we were all crazy in love with him.
Buck Buchanan was the last honest advertising man in the business according to Howard Cosell. His word was his currency and its value never dropped — integrity was his calling card. Creating Monday Night Football, hiring high school marching bands to win the Burger King account, and dressing the entire executive ranks of J. Walter Thompson in full British Naval uniform to point out the frivolity of obsession with titles were a few of his claims to fame.
A member of a generation not known for male sensitivity seminars, he nonetheless was a self-professed three-handkerchief man unafraid of shedding a tear or showing emotion. His service in the South Pacific in WW II, as he called it, proved a formative experience, operating as an army air force intelligence officer who had to read and censor each communiqué of the young men home to their loved ones. He felt lucky that he did not experience direct battle except when he was sent out in a boat to a downed Japanese pilot, and that his aim was not so sharp with a gun that when he and his fellow officer failed to shoot the man, they simply hauled him into the boat and brought him to shore.
His humanity extended to the animals around him which brought him great joy. A common site in his fading years would be him sitting in bed sharing a bowl of vanilla ice cream with my beloved Bichon Frise Coco. It seems hyperbole when someone speaks of a person who was liked by everyone he met, but in Buck's case this is simply a fact. I have visions of him dancing with my girlfriends in Florence, making the waitresses laugh with his wheelbarrow jokes, and giving words of encouragement to my sister and I that we could be whoever we wanted to be.
A true doting dad until the end, he was in the hospital rambling incoherently then suddenly looked at me straight in the eye and asked, "Do you need money?" then went back to his mumbling. He worried about me in the world and who would take care of me, yet I assured him that it did not matter because I already had in my life the best man I had ever known.
I wish just one more time that I could request my favorite ride to bed and put my small feet on his and rely on his steady and unwavering gate to transport me safely to the land of nod. Good night, gentle prince. Good night.
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