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Bad dad? A story of reconciliation

By Michael Thompson

“I hated my father – really, really hated him. I hated working for him and hated being around him. I hated it when he walked through the front door at home. And we feared him from the moment he pulled up in front of the house in his car.”

Tavis Smiley, host of the PBS program “The Tavis Smiley” program read this harrowing paragraph from the latest book by New York Times best-selling author Larry Elder, “Dear Father, Dear Son.”

The stirring story of Elder’s bitter hatred for his father and an eight-hour conversation 10 years after they last spoke was the topic of conversation when Elder appeared as a guest on Smiley’s show this week.

Elder said, “Well, Tavis, my dad was what I call a junkyard dog dad. You’ve heard the expression ‘tiger mom?’ He’s a junkyard dog dad. My dad was a Marine. He was one of the Montford Point Marines. Those are the equivalent of the Tuskegee Airmen for Marines. He’s a tough, tough guy. When I was 15 we had a fight, and I didn’t speak to him for 10 years.

“So now I’m 25 years old and I’m beginning to have difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating, I’m feeling restless, and one of my friends suggested that maybe it was because I had unresolved issues with my father.

“So I decided to sit down and talk with him. I figured, Tavis, the conversation would last maybe 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes, if that, because I was going to call him an SOB. I figured he was going to say something equally bad to me, and that would be that,” said Elder.

“Instead, we sat on two stools from 2:30 until 10:30, for eight hours, and during that eight-hour period of time the man morphed from being an SOB, cold, ill-tempered, thin-skinned, to this kind, caring, inspiration that I completely misread,” Elder said.

Smiley would ask Elder, “Ten years you go around hating your father. You hate him longer than that, but 10 years of hating him and not speaking to him. After those eight hours on those stools in his snack bar, how’d you feel? Did you feel – I don’t even want to put a word in your mouth, (laughter) because you hated your dad all this time, after eight hours of talking to him, and you realize how wrong you were about your father, how did you feel?”

After initially answer “relived and grateful,” Elder would say he felt, “foolish.”

Elder told Smiley, “What I was able to do, Tavis, is I called my older brother and I told him about this conversation, and I said, ‘You’ve misread him.’ He said, ‘No I haven’t. He’s an SOB,’ and said all the same things that I said about him. I encouraged my brother to sit down with my dad, and he did. It made their relationship better.”

The conversation switched gears to how Elder’s father work ethic rubbed off on him, with Smiley asking, “You went on to become a lawyer out of the University of Michigan, a great law school, very successful talk show host. What did you take from your father starting out as a janitor and ending up as an entrepreneur, owning this snack bar?”

Elder answered, “Don’t whine. Don’t whine. If anybody had a reason to whine, it’s my father. There’s a term I use; it’s called victocrat. These are people that are professional whiners who blame other people for other things. My dad was not a victocrat and would not tolerate people who were victocrats. My dad felt that the sky is the limit right now. Things were bad when I was a young boy, but even then you could still work hard and improve your lives. You have no excuses right now.”

The rest of the interview can be viewed here.

Elder will be appearing on the Fox News Channel popular weekly series, “Geraldo,” this Saturday night at 7 p.m. eastern to talk about “Dear Father, Dear Son.”

“Stunning … a wonderful read … a page-turner … a handbook for life.” Those words of advance praise from another celebrated author scarcely convey just how powerfully mesmerizing is the latest book by New York Times best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Larry Elder.

Released by WND Books Nov. 13, 2012, “Dear Father, Dear Son” is a personal memoir of Elder’s troubled – one might even say tortured – relationship with his father, and the astonishing outcome that develops when Elder, at long last, confronts him.

Says Elder: “A man’s relationship with his father – every boy, every man lucky enough to have a father in his life has to figure that out. My own father? I thought I knew him – even though he seldom talked about himself. And what I knew I hated – really, really hated. Cold, ill-tempered, thin-skinned, my father always seemed on the brink of erupting. Scared to death of him, I kept telling myself to find the courage to ‘stand up to him.’ When I was fifteen, I did.” After that, said Elder, “We did not speak to each other for 10 years.”

“And then we did – for eight hours.”

The result can’t be described. It has to be experienced.

As reflected in the book’s subtitle – “Two Lives … Eight Hours” – one extraordinary, all-day conversation between Elder and his long-estranged father utterly transformed their relationship. It is no exaggeration to say the book will likewise transform readers.

Indeed, calling it “stunning,” Burt Boyar, co-author of the bestselling autobiography on Sammy Davis, Jr., says of “Dear Father, Dear Son”: “Above all it is a wonderful read. I am tempted to call it a page-turner but in my case I hated to turn every page because that meant I was getting closer to the end and I did not want it to end. … The book is filled with emotion. It is, of course, a handbook for life. I guess it is that above all things. Any kid who reads it and follows the advice of how to live his life just has to come out well.”

“Dear Father, Dear Son” is the story of one man discovering a son he never really knew. And of the son finding a man, a friend, a father who had really been there all along.

Get your copy now!

See the interview: