I had a terrific father and certainly I will raise a glass to him today — the first Father’s Day when he is not with me on this great spinning blue gumball somewhere in the midst of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy. It has dawned on me, however, that while my father was an important role model for me when I was boy (for good and ill, if I am honest), there have been others as I’ve grown up and old. Among the profound blessings in my life was winding up in a hill town halfway up Vermont’s third highest mountain when I was a very young man. Here, in honor of Father’s Day, are a few other role models to whom I owe thanks. What do all these men have in common? They live in —or lived in — the tiny Green Mountain hamlet of Lincoln.
• The late Fletcher Brown. It was Fletcher who, one unexpectedly warm Sunday in November, saw my wife and me sitting on our front porch across from the church. He ambled over to us, eyeballed the scant fifty yards that separated our house from the sanctuary, and said with laconic charm and a wry smile, “Ain’t no excuse not to go to church now, is there?” There wasn’t, so we did. The rewards have been immeasurable.
• Rudy Cram. Rudy has taught me two things about owning a house that was built in 1898: The clapboard and slate and that very scary basement could become a fulltime job if I let them, so it’s important sometimes to chill and have a beer. The other thing? A neighbor is always a priority: If someone needs assistance breaking an ice jam on the roof in a rainstorm in January, you drop everything and help.
• The late Ron Rood. Yes, he was an immensely gifted writer and a storyteller. But he was also very funny. Among the best lines he left behind (and Ron left behind many) was this. When he was asked by a reader what drives him to write, he pondered the question long and hard before answering, “The mortgage. That’s what drives me to write. The mortgage.”
• David Wood. David is not simply my pastor and a great friend; he doesn’t simply have an unerring moral compass. He can also be frank and he can be frustrated when people are callous or judgmental. In the end, however, he tends to see the best in us in ways that all too often I miss.
• The late Fred Thompson. I was likely to disagree with Fred on a fair number of local and national political issues. But at town meetings he was brilliant and he sure did love Lincoln. When Tari Shattuck, a neighbor often on the other side of the political aisle from Fred, passed away, his remarks at her funeral were poignant and powerful and left those of us in the church nodding and smiling through our tears.
• Fred Danforth. How good a dad was this guy when he wasn’t designing beautiful pewter and running a business with his wife? He and his wife’s two grown daughters now live in Lincoln and are raising their children here. If you’re a dad, that’s an indication you’ve done something right.
• The late Paul Goodyear. He helped to raise two sons and four daughters, including my daughter’s godmother, and the six children always seem to have a twinkle in their eye. That’s something to be celebrated – and, perhaps, a testimony to how they were brought up.
• Andrew Furtsch. First of all, he is probably livid he is in this column. He is, no doubt, scowling at the attention. I like that. But he works tirelessly behind the scenes for the Lincoln Community School. In addition, at least as of this Sunday, he has kept me from accidentally killing myself while weightlifting at the gym.
There are many others I could have added from right here in Lincoln. This is just a sampling. So, to these dads — and to dads everywhere, the living and the dead — I say thank you.
Happy Father’s Day.
(This column originally ran on June 17 in the Burlington Free Press. Chris’s new novel, “The Sandcastle Girls,” arrives on July 17. To learn more about it or preorder it, click here.)