Tag Archives: Mark Russell

The Entertainer

I was well into my sixes or sevens before I noticed my Dad was different from other fathers.

It wasn’t until the fourth grade that it more meaningfully got my attention. We were asked to write down what our fathers did for a living. (They didn’t ask about our mothers.)

We were allowed to take this assignment home, even though it called for only a word or two. I took mine to my father, asking him how to spell “comedian.” He said he preferred “entertainer.”

The next day at school, we read our responses aloud. There were a lot of businessmen and government employees and several fathers working at the Pentagon. One girl reported that her father told her what he did was nobody’s business. Years later, I realized that her father worked for The Washington Post, when I noticed his byline as an overseas correspondent, then later as chief of the London Bureau and, before retiring, the paper’s ombudsman.

But I assure you, there were no other entertainers.

I’ve written plenty in this space about both of my parents, so if you’ve been around here for a while you have a sense of how my folks differ from yours.

My father turns a big number ending in zero today, so it gives me occasion to reflect on what makes him stand out. Not as an entertainer; most people already know that.

How My Father Is Different From Yours
by Monica Russell; oops, Welch

  1. My father has never worked in an office.
  2. My father went to work at night, usually around 8:30 p.m., after an extremely early dinner and a nap. For much of his career, he did two shows a night, six nights a week, including holidays.
  3. My father often wore a tuxedo to work.
  4. My father worked at a keyboard before yours did.
  5. My father couldn’t write a straight absence excuse after I had stayed home sick from school.
  6. My father took me on a cross-country train trip when I was 9; but he made me use the time to learn all 50 state capitals. Ask me any…
  7. My father took me to church ‘most every Sunday. He often tested me afterward on the homily. Ask me any…
  8. My father has been parodied on The Simpsons, Mad About You, Murphy Brown and Saturday Night Live.
  9. My father hasn’t really retired yet, though he tried. Just this week he said, “You may recall the vow that I made two years ago that I would come out of retirement on the day that congressmen would skinny dip in the Sea of Galilee. I have kept this solemn promise.”
  10. My father could probably make a list just like this one about his father.

Happy x0th birthday, Dad. You’re one of a kind.


Filed under Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio

Real life

Greetings from Lake Chautauqua, where I’ve been with about 25 family and friends for a mid-week reunion.  Aunts, uncles, a niece, four nephews and another 25 or so second cousins, cousins removed several times and family friends who’ve been in my life since day one were all here in western New York for the gathering.

It’s fun hearing everyone’s news and even more fun re-hearing the old stories.  Yes, it is true that I was “baptized” with gin by a drunken lobbyist while in my baby carrier atop a night club piano.

If you saw the movie Dan in Real Life, you have a picture of what it is like here—right down to the used book store in the center of town.  Dozens of relatives, complete with their successes and worries and baggage and history, under a roof a wee bit too small for the crowd, loudly living the joys and bumps of real life.  

The fact that I write a blog has come up periodically, and people have asked if I’d be writing any stories from the week.  I simply said, only if they are blogworthy.  That was all it took for one aunt who set out actively to achieve blogworthiness.

Wednesday alone, we fished off the dock for hours, undertook a hopelessly disastrous group craft project, which I orchestrated after temporarily forgetting my deficit in this area.  We divided into teams for a putt-putt tournament, swam, ran, played basketball, attended my father’s brilliant performance before an audience of 5,000 at the Chautauqua Institution’s amphitheater and had a loud dinner with 50 spirited guests. 

Was it blogworthy?  You decide.  I must report though that my 76-year-old aunt succeeded in achieving blogworthiness in her own right, on the mini golf course.  On the 12th hole, she stepped back from a rolling ball, into a row of raised bricks, and fell backwards, landing simultaneously on her tail bone and her head.  She got up and finished the remaining six holes. 

It takes a lot to stand out in this crowd, but everyone tries.


Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas