I got an e-mail from one of my father’s best friends yesterday. From time to time, since making “Be Good, Smile Pretty” - I’ve heard from friends of my father. Often, I avoid answering right away. It just feels like there is so much to say - too much to say. And I feel guilty for not being in better touch. I am thinking of someone right now — I won’t name names — but I really owe him an e-mail and a call. And there are really no two ways about it: I’m a jerk for not being in touch with him (he’s someone who was on my father’s boat when he died). I am avoiding him. It’s just a question of when - how can I psyche myself up for it? It still is pretty darn gut-wrenching no matter how trivial the conversation — perhaps even more gut-wrenching the more trivial it is, actually. And with kids underfoot, and another documentary in the making, the moments of peace to make an uninterrupted phone call are few and far between. But then, I’m taking the time to write this now.
So the jerk-label sticks. If I really wanted to be in touch, I could. I could find it in me. It’s just, one day leads to the next, leads to the next. Have I mentioned how much more understanding I now have about my mother not talking about my father as I grew up? Honestly, when is a good time to “go there”?
Any way here’s the e-mail I got yesterday — and it pulled me out of the trivial, if even for a moment. And somehow, this morning - I had the chops to respond.
I thought you’d be interested in the following mini story since it relates to your Dad—
On Tuesday of this week, my younger son, Chet, who is working as a photo journalist for The National Journal magazine in Washington, DC, was covering an interview with Senator John Kerry at Kerry’s offce. Chet called me prior to the meeting to get updated on details about your Dad, the Little Rock, your Mom and Dad’s wedding and what I knew about Kerry’s service with LTjg Droz.
After the magazine assignment was completed, Chet introduced himself to Kerry and explained that I had served with Don Droz in the Navy. Chet explained that our family was aware of his friendship with your Dad, your Mom and you. Kerry was understandably surprised by the unexpected connection and graciously showed Chet photos from Vietnam including your Dad’s boat. The whole event was very brief, but it touched an emotional chord with me. I thought it would with you as well.
I also emailed your Mom to give her “snapshot” of the encounter.
I hope all’s well with you and your family, here’s to a happy Mom’s Day!
Cheers to all —Dan
I so appreciate getting this note. I finished making “Be Good, Smile Pretty” in 2003/2004. And to be honest, I think I got a little burnt out. It was one thing to learn all that I did as my father’s daughter - but it’s quite another thing to make a film about it and then talk about it all the time. It was deeply felt, but I did need to step back.
Since then, I’ve had two beautiful daughters - who are now 3.5 (Penelope) and almost 7 (Charlotte). When Penelope started nursery school this fall, I started up with my documentary making again. I have always been drawn to the personal - so my focus doesn’t stray too far. It’s a film I’m making with my cousin about Rich Hill, my father’s home town. (I’m attaching a copy of the proposal, which has a video link so you can see some early footage). I’m going back next week - sometimes I feel it’s just an excuse to be with my uncle Paul, my father’s brother. He’s really such a wonderful man.
I was there last on April 12 - the anniversary of my father’s death. John Kerry calls my uncle Paul every year on that day. I sincerely appreciate his remembering the way that he does…
Thank you so much for your e-mail. I hate being out of touch with so many that I painstakingly reconnected with so many years ago. But perhaps there are cycles to these things.
I hope you are well.