Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Suburban Man: Father's Day & Mary Ann Childers

Father's Day is this Sunday, and this year it happens to fall on my wife Bridget's 40th birthday. I think it's safe to say that we won't be celebrating Father's Day in my house. I really don't mind. Father's Day has always been a bittersweet holiday for me anyway, as I explained last year in the following piece. I hope you don't mind if I rerun it this year.

By Rick Kaempfer

I would like to take this opportunity to thank someone who often comes to mind when I think of my own father: Mary Ann Childers.

Why do I think of the local Chicago news anchor when I think of my Dad?

It's a very odd story. I was the producer of the Steve and Garry show on WLUP, and we did a very special Christmas show one year--a full reading of the stage version of "A Christmas Carol" starring many local celebrities.

Among the celebrities present that day: Mary Ann Childers.

I don't remember what part Mary Ann played, but I remember that I cornered her backstage and asked her to do me a big favor. I told her that my father had a thing for her. He didn't say it was time to watch the news--he said it was time to watch Mary Ann. I asked if she would mind sending me an autographed picture of herself for Dad.

She seemed very flattered, but I really didn't expect her to do it. I figured she was a busy person and this was such a low priority that she probably wouldn't get around to it. That's probably why I was blown away when she sent me her promo picture with a personal note to my Dad saying... "It was a pleasure working with your son, Rick." The picture itself says "To Eckhard--Warmest Wishes for Christmas 1988. Mary Ann Childers."

I'll never forget how excited Dad was when he opened my present to him on Christmas Eve that year. I captured it on film...

Dad died six months later at the age of 54.

After he died I went to his office to clean out his things, and there she was, right in the middle of his desk: Mary Ann Childers. His co-workers told me that he joked with them about this picture all the time, saying that Mary Ann was his secret girlfriend.

Sunday is Father's Day. It's always a rough weekend for me. For the first twenty five years of my life, Father's Day weekend was a tribute to Dad. (And not just because it was Father's Day--it was his birthday too.) So, even now--seventeen years later, I struggle to enjoy Father's Day. I can't help thinking of Dad--and how much I miss him.

That's where Mary Ann Childers helps out.

When I don't want my sadness to ruin Father's Day for my kids, all I have to do is think of Mary Ann Childers. I remember how excited Dad was to get this picture from his "girlfriend," and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I've seen Mary Ann Childers a few times since Dad died--and I re-thanked her each time. Somehow I still don't think that's enough, so I'll say it again.

Thank You, Mary Ann.

One small gesture from you gave my Dad six months of enjoyment...and gave me seventeen years of comfort.

I'll never be able to repay you for that.