Through the Past Brightly by Bill Bussey, Provost
Back in the mid-70s, I spent a couple of college summers working as a bar waiter in a high-end restaurant on the Maine seacoast. One day a busload of folks in their mid-70s and 80s wandered in all at once for lunch and took up the entire room. My heart sank as I scrambled to take orders. Most senior diners kept a close eye on how much they spent and particularly on how much they tipped. I had been through this before: I would be rushing around for the next 90 minutes without much to show for it by the time they made it back to their bus. As I was taking an order, one woman told me that they had just travelled all the way from New Bedford. I froze in my tracks and surveyed the room with new eyes. One of these people must have known him.
“My grandfather came from Michigan but he practiced medicine in New Bedford," I said. “Floyd Bussey?”
Her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. Without taking her eyes off me, she clutched the arm of the man seated next to her and cried out, “My God, this is Dr. Bussey’s grandson.”
It turned out that at least a half dozen of them knew my grandfather pretty well. He died about 10 years before I was born. I knew that this opportunity would never present itself again. I hopped from to table to table, anxiously trying to gather as much information, to squeeze every memory and anecdote out of them, without being a nuisance. By the time they had left, I had learned more about my grandfather than I had from all of my family gatherings put together.
For whatever reason, I have found that fathers generally share very little about their own fathers with their children, particularly with their sons. When I first started teaching, I asked a simple question in class and happened to stumble upon a cultural truth that initially caught me off-guard. The question was this: “Raise your hand if your father has spoken in much detail about his relationship with own father?” I have asked this question in almost every PD class (all males) over the last 15 years or so. I rarely get more than two hands raised.
There were far more hands raised during Dr. JoAnn Deak's presentations at Nobles, particularly when it came to parenting. Dr. Deak was quick to point out that studies show that children raised by one parent, or by two fathers, or two mothers were just as likely to find happiness and success as those children in two parent homes. Yet, men, more often than we might admit, end up being something of a mystery to their own children. Dr. Deak observed after her visit at Nobles that she had never seen so many fathers from a co-educational institution show up to hear her speak. Of all the facts that were shared that evening, that one lingered the longest. I hope that is a trend that will continue and one that we can build on. The one message that came through loud and clear to me as a father is that the real key to my children’s happiness and success comes in the form of spending real one-on-one time with my children. There is nothing that trumps it.