Crow's Feet Podcast

The Book of Dads – A Crow’s Feet Tribute to Father’s Day

June 12, 2024 Crow's Feet Season 3 Episode 11
The Book of Dads – A Crow’s Feet Tribute to Father’s Day
Crow's Feet Podcast
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Crow's Feet Podcast
The Book of Dads – A Crow’s Feet Tribute to Father’s Day
Jun 12, 2024 Season 3 Episode 11
Crow's Feet

Forget the necktie and the tool box. Our gift to you this Father’s Day is a book…The Book of Dads, to be exact. 

Here you’ll find a collection of stories from Crow’s Feet writers that pays tribute to the men who played vitally important roles in their lives.  

In the “chapters” of this book, there’s a wealth of vivid memories. Some of these are happy. Some are sad. Others serve to remind us that while a parent might have loomed larger than life in one’s childhood, they might also have exhibited some very human foibles. 

Betsy Allen and Rand Bishop recall the special ways they found a connection with their fathers in ways both large and small. Bruce Stambaugh, Daniella Mini, Alex Jordan, and Mary McGrath reminisce how, over the years since their youth, they came to understand their dads better—and appreciate them. And finally, Jerry Dunn, Ilana Rabinowitz, and Jane Trombley share the influences their fathers had on them and recognize the lasting legacies they left behind. 

So pull up a chair, relax, and let us tell you some stories about our dads. 

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Show Notes Transcript

Forget the necktie and the tool box. Our gift to you this Father’s Day is a book…The Book of Dads, to be exact. 

Here you’ll find a collection of stories from Crow’s Feet writers that pays tribute to the men who played vitally important roles in their lives.  

In the “chapters” of this book, there’s a wealth of vivid memories. Some of these are happy. Some are sad. Others serve to remind us that while a parent might have loomed larger than life in one’s childhood, they might also have exhibited some very human foibles. 

Betsy Allen and Rand Bishop recall the special ways they found a connection with their fathers in ways both large and small. Bruce Stambaugh, Daniella Mini, Alex Jordan, and Mary McGrath reminisce how, over the years since their youth, they came to understand their dads better—and appreciate them. And finally, Jerry Dunn, Ilana Rabinowitz, and Jane Trombley share the influences their fathers had on them and recognize the lasting legacies they left behind. 

So pull up a chair, relax, and let us tell you some stories about our dads. 

Support the Show.

Bruce Stambaugh 00:00

I don't need a designated day to remember my late father.

Mary McGrath 00:03

I have my memories of him to sustain me.

Daniela Mini 00:06

Grumpy and impatient, but at the same time, sweet and interesting.

Rand Bishop 00:10

That was Dad.

Jane Trombley 00:12

I always knew he had my back. 

Voice Over  00:14

This is Crow's Feet. A place where we ponder the question, Are these our golden years, or does aging just suck? Well, yes, getting older is not for the faint hearted, but aging also brings wisdom and humor, a finely tuned perspective on life. In our podcast, you'll meet writers and others rethinking our later years, people who inspire us to reimagine our future.

Betsy Allen 00:43

Welcome to the Father's Day episode of the Crow's Feet Podcast. I'm Betsy Allen, your host. In this episode, our Crow's Feet writers share stories about some very special men, the fathers who helped shape their lives. 

(Opening music from Father Knows Best)

Each chapter in what we call our Book of Dads is chock full of memories and reflections. Some might bring a tear, some a laugh, others might stir reminiscences of your own, but all of them honor this holiday paying tribute to the fathers we love and keep in our hearts, no matter what age we are. As we open our book, you'll first hear from me and Rand Bishop, as we remember the special connections we had with our dads. As you'll see, fatherly love can reveal itself in many different ways. It might be found in a show of acceptance, in the pride of a son's accomplishments, or even in the simple act of watching a Saturday football game on TV.  

(football game in the background) 

Lord, please let them make the touchdown. It's the fall of 1976. I am a freshman in high school, and I am praying, hoping Touchdown Jesus will do his stuff. In a scene played out countless times in our family room, we, my dad, one of my brothers and I are watching Notre Dame football. Leaning in toward our big wood console, RCA TV. It's the third quarter on a bright October day in South Bend. In between plays, fans mug for the passing TV cameras. Then all eyes focus on an end zone of the fabled stadium. Beyond is a school library building with the giant mural of Jesus standing with open arms beckoning. Catch the ball, he seems to say and come unto me. But about this time in many games, the Irish would mess up, a fumble or interception when the score was close. My father would raise both arms in front of him and turn his face from the screen, his voice quavering with disgust. Well, that's it. There's your ball game. Might as well see what else is on. But of course, we never turned the channel. We didn't because sometimes, many times, the Irish would find a way to pull it out as the clock ran down. A Hail Mary, a lob across the field into the arms of a blessed receiver. Touchdown Jesus would signal it good, and Dad would settle back in his recliner satisfied, at least until next Saturday. Amen. 

Growing up in Ohio, football was the sport. While most of us in the house considered ourselves Ohio State fans first, we had a special allegiance to Notre Dame. No choice really, it was Dad's alma mater. We were very Catholic, and with a single TV in the house, it's not like I was going to overrule with a request for a Gilligan's Island rerun. Dad and my brothers were the most rabid fans, but from there interest levels varied. My mom and four sisters watched every so often. I didn't always sit in either, but when I did, there was a real payoff, because when we were all there and all watching, I felt a special closeness to my dad. I loved that he loved the sport so much. If my brother I asked about a certain play, Dad would pull us from our seats for a reenactment, his leather slippers shushing on the linoleum floor, using a sofa pillow for a football. He'd assumed the role of quarterback and run the play with his kids as receivers or defenders. I never knew quite what I was supposed to be doing, but it didn't matter. I was on the team, part of the action. And that was everything.

 As time raced on and his kids left home, Dad remained true to his school. My brothers always called him after big games, and as I grew older and it got harder to find things to talk about with my dad on the phone, I could always ask about football. Dad wandered into his twilight years, lost our mother and rarely left the house. But he could still be counted upon to know what the Irish needed to do to win, as if he'd stood shoulder to shoulder with the coaches on the sidelines each October Saturday. And so we come to the summer of 2007, my dad has died, and at his funeral mass, they are playing the Notre Dame fight song slowly, reverently, and I am praying, hoping that the Jesus he believed in so fervently would welcome him standing with open arms.

Rand Bishop 05:05

Perhaps you're familiar with Albert Finney's character in the movie Big Fish. That was Dad. He loved nothing more than to spin a yarn. His shared recollections were always rooted in some version of reality, but he never let factual accuracy get in the way of a bigger, more impressive story. Countless times I encountered someone who'd met my father. Maybe an acquaintance from church, a cable installer or a plumber whose ears he'd jabbered off one day while they were busy doing their job. And this person who I'd never met before would be familiar with my whole resume,.Or rather, Dad's grossly exaggerated version of my career credits. He or she would have endured endless boasting about how I heroically rescued Sylvester Stallone's directing career by producing the entire Grammy nominated multi platinum soundtrack for the Saturday Night Fever sequel, Staying Alive. In fact, I co-wrote and produced one song in the film. Or how a song I wrote for Toby Keith topped the country charts for an entire year. The truth is, the composition in question, My List, was number one for five weeks and ended 2002 as the year's most played single on country radio. It seems unlikely that dad ever crowed about my bisexuality, but he wasn't the least bit ashamed about it, either. Knowing how so many other queer boys and men have struggled with familial intolerance and rejection.

I never took dad's unequivocal acceptance of my sexual orientation for granted. That he was candid and curious enough to talk openly with me about that essential part of my life was a blessing. An odd, somewhat discomforting, one at times, but still a blessing. My father's enormous heart ceased ticking on May 22, 2021. Just a few weeks short of his 95th birthday. And as I think back, his pride in my career accomplishments is not what I treasure most. It's his friendship. That he always loved me as I am, that he never questioned my choices and stuck by me through thick and thin till the very end. I miss my father every day, and the three years since his merciful passing have only increased my awareness of how fortunate I am to have had Norm Bishop as my father.


Betsy AllenYou're listening to the Crow's Feet podcast, and we're paying tribute to the dads who have touched our lives in so many meaningful ways. Enjoying our Crow's Feet stories? Help us bring even more stories to a bigger audience by making a contribution to support our podcast. 

Visit, and click to become a supporter. Your ears will thank you, and we will too. You can also be alerted when new episodes drop by following the Crow's Feet podcast, wherever you listen.


For some of our writers, their fathers presented a bit of a mystery. Men with dimensions to their lives that weren't fully grasped by their children, at least not when they were young. But in the next chapters of The Book of Dads, Bruce Stambaugh, Daniela Mini, Alex Jordan, and Mary McGrath reflect on how they came to terms with those mysteries and came to understand and appreciate their fathers in all their very human complexity.

Bruce Stambaugh 08:59

I don't need a designated day to remember my late father. He still influences my everyday life, my hobbies and my values. I loved my father unconditionally. It took me too long to realize that I spent too much of my adolescent and young adult life trying to earn his affection when affection wasn't his thing. I finally understood that dad was already sharing his love in how he lived his life. Dad participated in diverse interests in his nearly nine decades of living. Unfortunately, assisting our dear mother around the house wasn't on his list. My father had Ichabod Crane's physique and Rip Van Winkle's spirit. At six feet, two inches in his prime, Dad was tall for his era, but his skinny build gave him a gangly appearance. Dad was athletic and energetic, especially when it came to having fun. He loved to recollect nights of ballroom dancing with Mom. We played Moonlight Serenade at his memorial service as he danced into glory. However, I only once saw Dad dancing with mom at a niece's wedding. Though, in their 80s, they glided across the floor as if they were 20. 

Dad loved to tell stories. I always acknowledged that Dad was indeed a great storyteller, and that some of those stories were actually true. Even as cancer overtook his body, Dad's passion for life remained. He was ready to go, but didn't want to leave this life he loved. Though Dad lay unconscious, the hospice nurse encouraged me to tell him it was alright to let go. So I did. Dad's reaction didn't surprise me. Unable to speak or open his eyes, he just waved me away. I took it as an indication that he wanted to die on his terms and time, and that is what he did. Early the following morning, while the nurse left his side for five minutes, Dad took his final breath. I don't need Father's Day to remind me of my dad, but I am thankful for the day and my affable but enigmatic father nonetheless.

Daniela Mini11:16

My father reminds me of the ogre, Shrek, grumpy, ugly, impatient, looking to be left alone, but at the same time, sweet and interesting. On a recent dental checkup, he was so beside himself when the dentist recommended removing a sick molar that my mother begged me to accompany them to the oral surgeon. My father asked so many questions you would have thought he was having a leg amputated. That tooth out, he proclaimed that would be his last dentist visit ever. I again shared in my father's trauma two weeks later, when I traveled with my parents to Caracas, Venezuela, where we're from. While waiting at the gate for our flight, my father commented, people are going to notice how diminished I look. He hadn't been to Caracas for seven years, during which he certainly aged but diminished, I wouldn't say so, and it shook me that he would think of himself that way. It particularly pained me to realize he worried about people noticing. Then I thought maybe he's not exactly worried. Perhaps he's just anticipating how people will see him, wondering if he'll be treated differently, or pondering people's assumptions about the elderly. After all, my father's a man with a severely disfigured face due to burn injuries sustained as a child. A man who was noticed all of his life because of his quote, unquote, diminished physical appearance. 

One of my parents' first visits in Caracas was to the family company established by my paternal grandfather in the 1950s. As I witnessed my father's reception at the complex that bears his father's name, I realized that at 83 he had become a revered elder. He settled in the conference room where employee after employee came in as in a procession to pay their respects. I could tell that my father was moved and taken aback a bit, even though he doesn't much like being the center of attention, he felt obligated, compelled or inspired to give a short speech. Perhaps he felt all three. It was as if he understood he had a role to fulfill by virtue of his age and history, not necessarily because he viewed himself as the wise elder. I sensed he felt a bit like an imposter, and that his elder role came as much as a surprise to him as it did to me.

Alex Jordan 13:40

My father lived in a barn the last few years of his life. Like any Southern gentleman, he had a place to do his own thing outside of the home he and my mother shared. It was a converted garage that was detached from the house. He added walls, shelves, a screen porch, windows and a cupola, and turned it into a studio. My father did everything, including his day job of teaching high school history. As a child, I never appreciated his talent, and I was even slightly embarrassed at times by how he did not fit any mold. He built model sailing ships, purchasing the balsa wood and dowels from a hobby shop creating fully rigged sailing ships. He flew and built kites. He rode a Western Flyer bicycle that was old even in the 1970s. He raised bonsai trees and always had a variety of plants in the garden and in the house. He did macrame, painted and cartooned.

Later, we moved from our small home into a three story unrestored townhouse that was built in 1888. Daddy restored the home, room by room, to a new life in the 1980s. Our parents eventually sold the downtown home a few years before the housing market collapsed and bought a home in the country. It was there that my father restored the barn and slowed down his pace of life. When he died, I took charge of the barn. There, he had a collection of his watercolor paintings and files of his writing. The watercolors are still there. Some are hard for me to look at. There's pain and loneliness in some of them, there's pain and loneliness in some of the writings as well. He had tried to share some of his writings with me over the years. Some of his earliest stories that I read were from his childhood days of growing up in Savannah. At that time, I was probably around 14 years old, and I could not bring myself to read about my father being a real human that was once a teenager like myself. The bulk of his writing was produced later in the barn, pounding on a manual, antique Underwood typewriter. As an adult, he would tell me what he was working on, but he did not ask me to read his work, and I did not volunteer to. 

Now, well over a decade after his death, I've decided to read his story that has been patiently waiting. In each story, there are bits and pieces of his life. Now reading these stories, I would love to ask them for more details. When I reread the stories of his childhood adventures with his buddy Tom, I was surprised to find that as a junior high student, they roamed the same neighborhood I would roam when I was growing up two decades later. The things he did were of a different era, camping in an abandoned Civil War fort, shooting bird to learn taxidermy, cutting a hole in my grandfather's garage for raising pigeons and going to a burlesque show that starred the mother of one of his friends. I never did anything half as interesting.

Mary McGrath16:47

My first memory of my father was when I was about two. He was as tall as an oak tree with a personality just as large. He was always laughing, even though our family had little money and every one of us had to share a room. Dad was the antithesis of my mother, who was firm and stern, doing her best to try and hold the family together. Someone had to rein in six unruly children, but it wasn't my father. Always the entertainer, always finding a way to get us out of going to church or, if we had to go, taking us out for ice cream afterwards. 

Living with my father was like having an in-house comic. He was a pie in the face, kind of guy full of pranks and laughter. I'm sure I got my silliness from him. But toward the dark side of my father as well, behind the funny guy, was the manic depressive gene. I remember closed door conversations that he had with my mother in their upstairs bedroom. I would hear hushed whispers and found out later that she was doing her best to try and encourage him to feel better, to have confidence in himself and to hopefully return to work. But he couldn't go to work. His mental illness prevented that. Back then, we didn't know a lot about manic depression and its ability to render somebody hopeless and helpless. My dad would lay around in his bathroom all day with the drapes drawn and the bed unmade. To this day, I have a thing about making the bed. An unmade bed means someone's not going to work. That was my father. My dad underwent electroshock and institutionalization. Electroshock was pretty common back then. A probable way to obliterate the memory so that the recipient forgot why they were depressed. Its short term effects would help at first, but then the demons would return. Although they loved each other dearly, my mother was forced to divorce him for economic reasons. Somebody had to support the family, and my father was incapable of doing so. At the age of 12, I saw my father for the last time. He was no longer the tall, strong, funny father that I remembered. He seemed frail, playing with his dentures out of nervousness and seeming unsure of himself. 

What happened to the funny father I remember? He was a stranger now, clamoring to make conversation. Years went by until I experienced my father for the last time in 1985. A trip through Mississippi took me to my father's family plot in Canton, Mississippi. This tiny, backward town didn't even have a formal floral shop. I could only purchase fake flowers if I wanted to decorate my father's grave. I saw the graves of his siblings, remembering them throughout the years, when they had visited our family from time to time. It's funny how life is sprinkled with the stops and starts for all of us. People coming and going, sometimes for no apparent reason, I reflect upon these memories knowing that someday I will be reunited with my father once again. Until then, I have my memories of him to sustain me.

Betsy Allen 20:01

In our final chapters of the Book of Dads, Jerry Dunn, Ilana Rabinowitz and Jane Trombley share reminiscences of the ways their fathers influenced their lives, whether the memories are of happily soaring in the air, some down to earth wisdom, or of their father's last day, all of them reflect a lasting bond and show the powerful legacies of love and wisdom left behind.

Jerry Dunn 20:31

The year 1964. I was 18 years old. I was a freshman at Ball State University. My first time living away from home. I came home for Thanksgiving break and was happy to be back for the holidays. Two days later, my father had a massive heart attack and died in our living room. I was the only one there. My father worked nights in a bakery, and he got home every afternoon around one o'clock, and on this particular day, I was waiting for him so we could go to grandma's house for lunch. When he pulled up in front of the house, he blew the horn a couple of times. I looked out the window and saw him motioning for me to come out to the car. This is 1964. No cell phones or text messaging. He said, I'm not feeling very good. I need some help getting into the house. So not knowing what was about to transpire, I put the arm of this 200 plus pound man, my father, over the shoulder of my 125 pound frame, and helped him get up the front steps into the living room and onto the sofa. 

He asked Mary for a glass of water and a cigarette. Suddenly, he began coughing and gasping for air. At this point, I wasn't quite sure what to do. I called the fire department. No 911 back then. In somewhat of a panic, I called my mom and said, Dad’s, really sick, you better get home as quickly as you can. To this day, the next couple of hours remain blurry and unclear. What I do remember is that the fire truck arrived first, and the EMTs began to do whatever they could to save my father's life. I had no idea that he was actually dying right before my very eyes. My grandmother, who didn't drive, called a cab to bring her the three miles from her house to ours. She arrived just before her only child expired. About 30 minutes later, my mom appeared in the living room. Too late. She had left that morning for work. Just another day at the office. Five hours later, she's standing in our living room with her only child, me, in a state of shock. Her mother in law, sobbing over her only son's dead body, and two firemen who had done everything they could to keep my dad from dying, I spent the next few days being strong for my mom. We went through the post-death obligatory tasks of planning a funeral and finding a burial site, of standing in a receiving line of friends and family, of driving home from the graveyard to that place where Raymond Dunn,, my father, used to live. Why a story about death on Father's Day? Because even though it has now been 60 years since that traumatic day, he's still my father. I still hold him in my heart. My memories of him still bring a smile to my now wrinkled face. I am still grateful for the life lessons he taught me, and I still love him. Happy Father's Day, Dad,

Ilana Rabinowitz 23:24

My father left me something so valuable, I still use it every day, almost 25 years after he passed, my father didn't have the benefit of an education. He had to quit high school and get a job to help support his immigrant parents. But he was smart, and like many people who had to figure out the world on their own, he knew how to negotiate life. He imparted his wisdom to us through personal stories. Lesson number one: the story of the splitting stomach. When my mother gave birth to my youngest sister by Cesarean section in 1959, she was laid up with lots of stitches. People visited and brought presents. One day, a couple visited. My mother sat up to greet them from her bed. She was uncomfortable, and after a short time, she continued to be polite, but they stayed too long. An hour later, her stitches opened up and she had to go back to the hospital. The lesson: Don't be so focused on being polite and serving the needs of others that you hurt yourself. Speak up! When a situation like that would come up, my father would say, don't let this be the story of the splitting stomach. 

Lesson number two: the story of Snow White. My sisters and I love Disney movies. We watched our favorites over and over. In those days, to see a movie, you had to go to the theater and your parents had to go with you. My father was amazed that we could watch the same plot repeatedly as if it were for the first time. Once he knew the ending, he didn't see the point of watching again. After seeing the movie the third time, why would we be so upset and shocked when the wicked witch handed Snow White the poison apple? His catchphrase was, after you've seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarves 50 times, you should realize how it ends. Be prepared when someone has shown you who they are

Lesson number three: you don't have to tell a fool he's a fool. My father had a way with people. I always wanted to yell at people who made me upset. My father knew that when people act in harmful ways, calling them out and fighting back will not necessarily make things better for you, especially if they have power over you. It's enough, he would say, that you know that someone's a fool. Telling them that they are a fool just turns them into an angry fool. This lesson is my favorite, because it was created for me. I use it as a medium writer when trolls appear, as a member of my building's board of directors, when angry residents complain for no reason. At those times, I feel like my dad is with me, reminding me not to get into the fray with people who don't have good intentions. Lesson learned by a certain age, we have all seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs enough times to know how it ends.

Jane Trombley 26:21

My father was a recreational pilot when I was a kid in the 1950s. My very favorite thing was to join him on an early weekend morning for a ride in his Piper Cub. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the tail number was N2517P, high wing, red and cream, a two seater with tiny back seats. Often it was just the two of us. We’d drive to the small airfield, 35 miles or so straight west from Chicago in what was then farm country, untie the plane from its canvas tethers, do a routine safety check, climb aboard, and

( sounds of an airplane engine)


whoosh down the grass strip into the air, nothing short of dazzling. Then, as I experienced it and now, as I remember it, this story isn't about getting a pilot's license. This story is about empowerment. My father taught me to fly. My growing up was very conventional for the time. Dad worked, Mom managed the home and family life. In this traditional Ozzie and Harriet world, gender roles were clearly defined. Empowerment wasn't a thing back then. As the eldest of three with two younger brothers only, my chronological rank and gender set me apart. Yet subtly and without fanfare, my father bestowed upon me the textbook definition of empowerment: The process  of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights. He indeed taught me to fly. I was extraordinarily lucky in life's twists and turns. Since our days in the Piper Cub, I always knew he had my back. As an adult, I've realized how he gave me the tools to deal with life. That's empowerment. It's Father's Day. Somewhere in the firmament, Dad is out there saying in the words of Paul Simon, “I'm going to watch you shine. I'm gonna watch you grow.” Thanks, Dad. I think you'd be okay with how things worked out. Hashtag, gratitude.


You've been listening to the Crow's Feet podcast. We'd like to thank the guest writers, Rand Bishop, Jerry Dunn Alex Jordan, Mary McGrath, Daniela Mini, Ilana Rabinowitz, Bruce Stambaugh, Jane Trombley and me. Betsy Allen, your host and producer for this episode, I want to thank the Crow's Feet podcast team. Nancy Peckenham, our founder, Rich Halten, our sound editor and designer, Nancy Franklin, our marketing and public relations expert and the Crow's Feet, writers and editors who make up our team, Lee Bentch, Melinda Blau, Jean Feldeisen, Jan M Flynn and Jane Trombley. The Crow's Feet original theme music was composed and performed by Rand Bishop.

Voice Over  29:50

Music. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Crow's Feet: Life as We Age. Don't miss any of our great stories. Subscribe to Crow's Feet wherever you get your podcast. Years, and be sure to tell your friends and family to give a listen to and leave a rating or review. You can read more Crow's Feet stories online at

So until next time, remember to savor every moment as Stanislaw Jersey Lex said, 

“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art making friends with your crow's feet.”