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BurtLaw on Fathers & Kids
-  LawAndEverythingElse.Com  - Copyright (c) 2006 Burton Randall Hanson

 It's Clinique bonus time/ tar-ar-a boom-de-ay.... Each family, each relationship, develops its own traditions. One of the traditions that developed, quite unintentionally, in my relationship with my daughter, who is now a lawyer, revolves around the periodic "Clinique bonus days," when, if one makes "a Clinique purchase" exceeding a certain amount (it's $19.50 now, but used to be less), one typically gets a free cosmetics pouch loaded with samples of eight Clinique products -- eyeshadow, lipstick, soap, shampoo, blusher, lip gloss, lotion, perfume, etc. The tradition owes its genesis to the fact that when I was in law school I developed an allergy to fragrances. I stopped -- cold turkey! -- using after-shave lotion and men's cologne ("Brut" and "Aphrodisia") and scented soaps and shampoos and detergents and deodorents and began using Neutrogena fragrance-free products and, when I became aware of them, Clinique fragrance-free shampoos and clarifying lotion (as an after shave) and moisturizer. At some point when she was in grade school (I'd have to check my journal to determine precisely when), my daughter began showing an interest in cosmetics and I began getting the Clinique bonuses for her and letting her experiment with them at home. There used to be just one outlet for Clinique in the Twin Cities -- Daytons (n/k/a Marshall Fields) -- and there might be only two or three "Clinique bonus times" a year. But now Clinique is also carried by several stores at the Mall of America and at least two other department stores in downtown Minneapolis. Yesterday I ran out of Clinique gentle wash shampoo. Fearful that if I stopped using it, women would stop coming up to me in the grocery store and asking if they could run their fingers through my hair, I drove out to Nordstroms at the Mall of America, which is in the midst of a Clinique bonus days extravaganza as part of its semi-annual women's sale, and got my latest "fix" of the stuff -- and the Clinique bonus, a pink and maroon faux leather cosmetics bag with an assortment of goodies for my daughter that looks even better than normal. The tradition continues.... (11.14.2002)

Of fathers & small-town barber shops & fishing & walleye beer batter.  One summer day in 1952, when I was nine years old, I was getting a haircut in one of the chairs at C. K. ("Goose-o!") Brenden's Paris Hotel Barbershop, when Bill McAllister came in to get his daily shave and shoot the breeze with "the boys." Bill had been a traveling casket salesman from Ohio, I believe, back in the 1920's. A handsome man, he became enamored of Anna Hoiland, daughter of the owner of Hoiland's Mortuary & Furniture Co. (for some reason, the two, caskets & furniture, always were sold by the same guy in small-town America). Bill & Anna got married and had one kid, a boy, but the boy died young. As a father of two kids, I can't imagine how one ever gets over a loss like that. But I also think it's true that once one becomes a father to one's own kid, one somehow becomes, if one is any good, a father of sorts for all time to all kids and looks kindly on all of them and does one's damndest to be kind to all of them. That was especially true in my hometown. I had a great dad, whom I still think of every day five years after his death, but in a way I also had hundreds of fathers -- father figures, men like Bill, who that day said simply this: "Randy, your dad is one of the best fishermen I know." A boy wants to be proud of his dad, and I can attest it makes a boy proud to hear something like that -- so proud I can still hear Bill say it: "Randy, your dad is one of the best fishermen I know." Words to me as beautiful as the loveliest poem! We liked it best when Dad (depicted left in a pic I took in 1958) caught walleye pike. I still think a pan-fried freshly-caught walleye is the best of all fish. You may disagree with me, but if you do, you're wrong. R.W. Apple, Jr. has a piece in today's New York Times on the great Minnesota tradition, catching, cooking and eating walleye pike. More. If you haven't eaten walleye the right way, I feel sorry for you. The right way is to coat the fillets in a special-formula beer batter and pan fry them. Everyone has his or her own favorite batter recipe. Mine, of course, is best. What you do is -- oh, heck, I'm not telling. (05.29.2002)

Fathers and kids.   My daughter, Jennifer Lindsay Hanson, who took off a couple years to work after graduating from Harvard College, is a May 2002 graduate of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. When she was a second year student in college, she signed a contract with the Boston publisher, Houghton-Mifflin, to write a trade paperback, The Real Freshman Handbook: An Irreverent & Totally Honest Guide to Life on Campus, which was published in 1996. See, interview/profile in Harvard Gazette. The book has made its way onto a number of "recommended reading" lists for college freshmen. See, e.g., this piece in a University of Colorado alumni publication by William C. Marolt, CEO/President, U.S. Olympic Ski Team, Park City, Utah, recommending three books to kids about to go to college and their parents, one of them J. HA's book. Very few books stay in print for long, fewer still do well enough to justify a second edition. J.HA's book has remained in print since it was published and has been sufficiently successful -- "enormously successful," according to Houghton-Mifflin -- that H-M has just published a  revised, updated second edition, with around 20% new material, including a new cover. Click here for table of contents. I already have my copy. More...

 The things a boy remembers... Twenty-seven years ago on the afternoon of January 27, 1975, after repeated calls to the old Abbott Hospital maternity ward in Minneapolis, my Dad, Russell, got the word that my first child, Jennifer, had been born. I still have the slip on which Dad jotted down the details. He was with my mom at a conference at which she was speaking in outstate Minnesota. On receiving the news from Dad, she announced to the audience that she'd just learned that they were grandparents for the first time, and everyone applauded. Right afterwards, they drove straight to Minneapolis and visited my then wife and Jennifer at the hospital. Dad often recalled that day and that trip in talking with me. There is a poetic aspect to the fact that it was 22 years later to the day, on the night of January 27, 1997, that Dad died. When I was there with him that afternoon, I reminded him it was Jennifer's birthday. He knew it was. Although he was in great discomfort and had said he thought he was going to die, he opened his fjord-blue Viking eyes and gave me a nice smile I'll always cherish. I said that was a nice smile. His last declarative sentence to me was, "I always have a smile for you." After that it was basically just scattered words like "dog," "Henry," and "Help me." I asked him what dog he'd seen and he said, "Lucky." Lucky was our old cocker spaniel, whom Dad, a small-town banker, brought home in the early '50's from a farm auction sale he was clerking after no one bid on him. Lucky had died 37 years earlier, on Christmas Day 1959 in my presence on an examining table in the office of Dr. T.S. ("Tobe") Eberly, M.D., a family friend who had volunteered to look at him when we told him he was in bad shape. "Henry" was Dad's Uncle Henry B. Hanson, father of Dad's cousin, Blanche, who, like Dad, had lost her mother in childbirth and had been raised along with Dad by their Aunt Elina Hanson and their common grandparents, Hans R. & Britha ("Betsy") Hanson. "Help me" was a plaintive cry I heard often when Dad was in pain when he was staying with my son, Erik, and me in late 1996 before he had to be hospitalized. I wish I could have been the hero to him that he was to me. On the fourth anniversary of Dad's death, Erik handed me a picture (see right) I took of them together in the summer of 1988, when Dad was in the cities and drove over and had lunch with Erik, then 11, and me at the State Capitol in St. Paul, where I worked. Dad's bank, like a number of other ones, had failed and been "closed" involuntarily in the summer of 1985 during what was a regional agricultural depression. Other men might have been broken by a traumatic event such as that. But Dad, like Richard Nixon, who was born the same year, was good at "bouncing back." In doing so, as in so many other ways, he continued to "father" me and to "grandfather" my kids. Good fathers don't stop fathering when the kids leave home. They keep on fathering. They stay with us. As he did and as he has continued doing.... (01.25.2002)

 Girls, like boys, need dads. We read lots about the negative effects on boys of not having dads, grandfathers, uncles and other strong and loving male figures in their lives. Mary Mitchell's commentary titled Fatherless girls' losses are deep, long-lasting, in the Chicago Sun-Times for 10.28, reminds us that girls also need those figures in their lives. Click here for more. (10.28.2001)

 "It's not a girl, is it?" My 3-L (third-year law student) daughter was home from Michigan for a long weekend timed nicely to coincide with the wedding of a friend. Last Friday afternoon around three a pipefitter came to fix a leak in the water line from the street to the house. A single father, he brought along his 6-year-old daughter because he knew it would be a long job and the daycare center closed at five. I told him she could watch TV with me. So, for the next five hours we watched TV, drew pictures, made "booklets," and ate cheese and crackers. My daughter was present for part of the fun, and little "Sarah" took to her instantly. When Sarah left she told me to tell Jennifer, who'd left for the rehearsal dinner, that she liked her. I was happy to do so. Sarah also said she liked being here and hoped she could come back again. Sarah is a lucky little girl who is appreciated by her hard-working 24/7/365 dad for who she is. It is not so in many cultures. "When a woman in the Middle East gets married, she had better start producing boys. Regarded as her husbandís slave, the wife might increase her status if she does so. Upon sight of the baby girl, the paternal grandmother traditionally sings, 'Why did you come, girl, when we wished for a boy? Take the Zala (jar) and fill it from the sea, may you fall into it and drown.'" From a piece, To Love a Baby Girl, by Jamie Glazov in Front Page. For more about the plight of women in some Middle-Eastern cultures, click here. (10.24.2001)

 A hundred fathers. I am fortunate enough to have had, in addition to a great biological dad, lots of "father figures." Sadly, there are many kids who not only don't have a dad or an uncle in their lives but don't have any father figures or male mentors. [more] The Page Foundation, named for NFL Hall-of-Famer & MN Supreme Court Associate Justice Alan C. Page (who is an outstanding appellate judge), tries to help as many of these less fortunate kids as it can. Visit here to learn more.

 Essay. An essay by Roger Rosenblatt about A Bully Father, Theodore Roosevelt. For an online selection of his letters to his kids, click here.

 Five court-eous judges & my dad. During the last decade of his life, my Dad enjoyed stopping by the capitol or the judicial center to have lunch with me whenever he was in the cities. In the days when the court was located in the capitol, we'd eat in the capitol cafeteria; once I'd moved to the new judicial center, we'd eat in the court cafeteria. When he was chief justice, the courtly Peter S. Popovich, who was always kind to me, often would spot us at our table and stop by and chat briefly with Dad. When PSP was out in Benson at a public hearing in the county courthouse, he spotted Dad in the audience and publicly recognized him. The next chief justice, A. M. "Sandy" Keith, regularly would stop and talk with Dad when he'd spot us in the judicial center cafeteria. Sandy Keith makes everybody feel valued, and Dad was no exception. But Sandy is different from most nice people: he goes out of his way to be nice to people -- not for utilitarian, glad-handing political purposes, but because he has been, since he was born, a naturally gregarious and kind person. Whenever Sandy was in Benson, he stopped by Dad's office and chatted with him. Chief Justice Popovich's predecessor, Douglas Amdahl, in his post-retirement role with the Egan law firm in Mpls, which represented Dad beautifully in two matters, spotted Dad in the hall there one day and was similarly kind. Two other justices, both associates, also went out of their way to make Dad feel welcome when he visited me, the late Judge Mary Jeanne Coyne, perhaps the smartest judge I've ever known, and Judge Paul H. Anderson, who, like Sandy Keith, stopped by Dad's office and visited him when he was in Benson. Dad died in early 1997. He proved to me that one never stops being a dad and one never stops being a son. His final words to me, which accompanied a smile on which I commented, were, "I always have a smile for you." I still miss him and when I remember him lovingly on Father's Day, I'll just be doing what I do every day.

My best Father's Day.  If, as Edgar Guest wrote, it "takes a heap o' livin' to make a house a home," it takes a heap of driving to feel about one's car the way one feels about one's home.

     Thirteen years ago in June my son, then 11, and I drove out to Freeway Ford in Bloomington and took delivery of a new, midnight blue metallic, 1988 Ford Ltd Crown Victoria station wagon, one of the last of the breed of full-sized wagons. At right is a picture I took of the car on vacation in northern Michigan when the car was in its prime. I don't take pictures of it anymore, because it doesn't look so good with its bent front fender (result of my son's friend pressing on the accelerator rather than the brake by mistake), its rear bumper temporarily off (my son had a little mishap the other day). It's sort of like a woman, a beauty in her 20's, who becomes camera-shy around 40 or 50. But I continue to love it even though it's in its 70's or 80's.

     Charles Lindbergh referred to his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, and him as "We." He first wrote of the plane as a cabin, like Thoreau's cabin of solitude at Walden Pond: "A cabin that flies through the air, that's what I live in; in a cabin higher than the mountains, a cabin in the clouds and sky." But after crossing the ocean in her, he referred to her as a living creature: "[It] is a wonderful a living creature, gliding along smoothly, happily, as though a successful flight means as much to it as to me, as though we shared our experiences together, each feeling beauty, life and death as keenly, each dependent on the other's loyalty. We have made this flight across the ocean, not I or it."

     We, the Ford & I, have traveled over 180,000 miles together, on good roads and bad, in good weather and bad. We drove up to Michigan together on Labor Day weekend in 1988 to buy a cottage where my ex-wife had spent every summer of her life, a last grand romantic gesture on my part to try save our failing marriage. We drove the kids to summer camps and on a trip east to visit Princeton & Harvard & Amherst & Williams & other schools. We picked the kids up after school at Blake countless times. We drove from Edina to my job at the court in St. Paul and back five times a week, @ 50-weeks a year for ten of those years. We drove to my mother's funeral in it. We drove out and picked up my Dad in it two years in a row so he could see his kids graduate from Blake. Early one morning shortly before Labor Day in 1992 we drove Erik in it, curled up and writhing in pain in the back seat, to Fairview Southdale for an emergency appendectomy. In 1995 we drove to Minnehaha Falls a number of times to rendezvous with a woman I loved, and that fall we drove my daughter out to Harvard for the start of her junior year, stopping at another "falls," Niagara, and at Amherst on the way. And in 1997 we drove to my father's funeral in it.

     But my most memorable adventure in it was on the Saturday before Father's Day in 1995. My daughter had left earlier that day in a 1985 Volvo headed for the cottage in Michigan with Butterscotch, that old poet of a golden retriever. Jennifer & the Bo were going to spend some time alone, working on her book, which was to be published by Houghton-Mifflin the following year. As my son & I were walking around Lake Calhoun late in the afternoon, my soon-to-be ex-wife drove up alongside us and said that Jennifer had called from someplace midway through Wisconsin, that the Volvo's drive belt had broken, that it had been towed, that it couldn't be fixed until the following week, and that I needed to drive and get her and Bo.

     It was after 10 o'clock when we approached the Shell service station in the small Wisconsin city four or five hours on the way to Michigan. The folks who ran the station had stayed open past their 9 o'clock Sunday closing time so that Jennifer and Bo would feel safe waiting for me. I'll never forget seeing the station from a distance in the dark, spotting first Butterscotch sitting next to the service bay, tied to a pole with a bowl of water next to him, and then Jennifer, sitting on the steps, talking with a man who she soon told me was the county coroner. It was a hot night and Butterscotch was so exhausted from the ordeal that I had to lift him into the back seat. He panted heavily for awhile as he lay on the floor, waiting for the air conditioned air to cool him, and then he fell asleep, listening to us in his sleep as we drove west through the surreal summer night, well into Sunday morning, Father's Day. I doubt I'll ever have a better Father's Day and it's fitting that Old Blue, the best car a guy could ask for, helped make it possible.

     Butterscotch would die that December; my Dad would die a year and a half later; the divorce, in Dickensian fashion, would slowly -- oh, so agonizingly slowly, for four years -- work its way through our troubled court system, eating away at my soul in the process; I would quit my job; and friends would drop away.

     But the car is still with me, I still have a loving heart, and I have two kids who make me glad -- not just on Father's Day but every day -- I'm their Dad. Update: "The car" passed the 191,000 mile mark in June.2002, 201,000 miles in June 2005.

Announcement. We've finally gotten around to launching our new webzine/blawg: BurtLaw's The Daily Judge:

It is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, it is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert the reader to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things about "judges" that have interested us and that may interest the reader.

We don't promote our blawgs, but readers of this blog and of our affiliated political opinion blog, BurtonHanson.Com, may be interested in it. We don't think there is another blawg quite like it.