WIUM Tristates Public Radio

My New Year’s Letter to My Son

Jan 2, 2014

Dear Russell:

Here’s something very rarely mentioned in the same sentence: Prizefighting and parenthood.

Actually, parenting is less like prizefighting than watching boxers from a ring-side seat.

Life is not exactly a fight but it can sometimes feel like we’re on the ropes in a ring.

Alone maybe, or facing lousy odds.

Bill Knight

Personally, I’ve been a spectator, trainer, sometimes a cutman in your life “matches.” It’s offered me a sense of pride, if not power.

I’ve always been proud of you. Conversely, I’ve never been ashamed of you.

And, OK, “always” and “never” are loaded words, but they’re accurate.

You’re 26, so that means you’ve had almost 10,000 days of opportunities to act in ways, positive and negative, and, partner, you’ve put up Hall of Fame numbers.

Your Grandma and Grandpa, frankly, had occasions to feel … uncomfortable, if not ashamed, of me.

Of course, they forgave and forgot.

With you, I would’ve forgiven, of course. That’s part of family and love.

But I don’t think I forgot anything worth remembering.

I know I recall your accomplishments, vividly, from minor moments to momentous achievements:

Gently stroking babies’ heads when you were a toddler yourself, and learning to ride a bike.

Visiting an injured and hospitalized schoolmate without anyone suggesting the idea.

Earning Eagle Scout, playing in band, competing in Scholastic Bowl and Geography Bees, playing baseball and keeping score at Wrigley Field like a press-box veteran.

All-conference basketball and state finals in track, sticking with basketball during challenging coaching in college and doing late-night radio on campus. Coming home from college when your cat had to be put down; driving hours alone to see Grandma on her death bed.

Going to law school and making a life in St. Louis, raising your dog and passing the bar in two states.

Through it all, a dad’s pride has endured.


crap happens, too, regardless of achievements, attitude, a willing nature and a big heart – broken finger, broken nose; other tough breaks.

As a parent, that sense of pride, if not power, can swiftly transform into powerlessness.

It’s indescribably frustrating to witness stumbles, setbacks, disappointments and worse, knowing there’s little an outsider – even a close observer – can do to have a real effect.

As I’ve told you in an attempt to reassure you that crap happens, yes, but life goes on: Remember the ear infections that used to knock you out as a grade schooler. As a dad, I found little to do to relieve that pain; antibiotics didn’t work, there was nothing to bandage or rub or soothe. Watching was it. As someone who suffered with it, you remember THAT it happened, but you no longer FEEL that discomfort now.

It’s like a champ considering some past knockdown but realizing he’s not actually lying on the canvass looking up.

So: Look up.

I’m in your corner.

And it’s crowded here.  

Love, Dad  

Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.