On Fatherhood

Anthony Bourdain was my dad. Not in a biological sense, not in an adoptive sense, not in any familial sense at all. I never met the man; he didn’t know I existed. Such a nonsensical allegation might disqualify any latter statements, and yet I stand by these words. It’s not so much that the man raised me, but that I saw so much of my actual father in him that for many years when I was growing up, hooked on the TV, I subconsciously transposed the two when one or the other wasn’t around.

1995, building a bike

My dad is an incredible man. Deeply intelligent, sarcastic, strong, compassionate, and loving to a fault. He would move the earth for his family, do anything it took to make his children happy. He wouldn’t dote on us because we were too rebellious to allow such an indulgence, but he’s always been the one putting in the hours, working in places with people he’d rather never met, to give us the best life possible. That’s why he was always traveling when I was younger, always on the job, seeing far off lands that I couldn’t begin to imagine.

When I found Mr. Bourdain and his incredible adventures, I felt as if it was some sort of glimpse at my dad’s secret life, of the places he would go when he packed up his bags and climbed into the bulky airport shuttle van once again. Granted, my dad isn’t nearly such a foodie, nor had time to cavort on the streets to seek out such wild exploits. His time was occupied by meetings with professionals in anonymous grey buildings that could have truly been located anywhere in the world. I had no idea, so I made up my own narrative. I wanted to believe that he was having just as much fun, too.

1992, my sister and I pile on

I realize all this in hindsight, as I try desperately to pull apart my intense reaction to the news of Mr. Boudain’s passing. He may not have as many fans within the vegan community, but that’s truly besides the point; it’s downright offensive that anyone could consider this anything less than a tragedy, a horrendous loss of a person with a lot of heart, and sadly, a lot of demons. It’s still hard to accept the fact that he’s gone, that he will never again shed light on a place where no other journalist would dare explore, speak to locals otherwise overlooked, try foods no average American would dream of consuming.

I cling even more tightly to my real father now, despite the physical distance that separates us. We send silly emails back and forth, commenting on ridiculous news stories or funny anecdotes from our days. Nothing big or serious; we rarely even say “I love you” outright, but it’s always implied. I feel so incredibly lucky to have this incredible human being in my life, and the loss of another is a powerful reminder of that.

1989, still new at this

If there’s one thing I ask of you, on this Father’s Day, is to really appreciate all of the fathers in your life. Past, present, honorary, or designated by birth. We need them- I need them- To teach us how to fully live, and to be better citizens of the world.

12 thoughts on “On Fatherhood

  1. Awww Hannah this brought tears, I did not know of the gentleman in question Anthony Bourdain until people started posting about his passing so I looked him up.
    I can feel your loss.. And all the more reason to cherish what we have in the hear and now as you hold your own Father ever closer..
    A touching tribute to both of your ‘Fathers’ Hannah, All too soon the years pass us by..

    My Son came yesterday and our Daughter this morning bringing gifts for their Dad.. And it was so nice to see them.. So keep sending silly emails..

    My Dad and I would ring each other once a week taking it in turns.. He even when I was in my 40’s some twenty years ago now would ring Christmas pretending to be Santa.. Memories Cherished.. Keep them all close..

    LOVE and HUGS dear Hannah.. A super write xx

    1. I can always count on you for a heart-felt response! I’m glad that you’re celebrating with the ones you love. Every moment we have with them really is precious.

      1. Exactly Hannah.. That is what life is all about.. Living in the NOW of a moment and holding loved ones close.. Many thanks dear Hannah.. Take care my friend.. <3

  2. What a beautiful tribute. My dad has been gone for more than a decade and I think of him and miss him every day … but I love Father’s Day, because it causes me to pause and think of him and how he taught me so much and to be grateful for all that he gave to me. And, because I love to read the tributes of children who still have their dads around. Thank you!

  3. You moved me to years, Hannah, you gem. Thank you for sharing this tender and thoughtful post. Your dad sounds and looks like a sweet man–and you and your sister, by the way, holy shnikeys, were you cute! Hahahaha.

    I lost my dad just over 10 years ago, so the name of your blog characterizes days like today really well: it’s bittersweet. Your photos made me smile and laugh because my older sister and I have similar photos of us with our dad–one, in particular, of my dad lying down on the couch with baby me and toddler sister on top of him. Hahaha.

    I never really knew anything about Anthony Bourdain, but everything I’m reading about him now make me wish I knew him. He sounds like he was a spectacular man and I’m sorry he struggled for so long and had to fight such cruel demons. I’m sending you and his fans love, and I’m sending hugs.

    Thanks for your fabulous writing, always, and for the important reminder to celebrate all the good men in our lives today. Happy Fathers’ Day to your precious father.

    1. My goodness, I’m just so happy that it resonated with you, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your thoughtful, supportive, encouraging response. It was a very difficult post to write, and I hesitated greatly before hitting that “publish” button. I never wanted to make this blog so personal, but it seems impossible in this day and age. I’m glad I’m not alone, and can share so openly here. <3

  4. This is a beautiful story and juxtaposition.

    I didn’t know much about Anthony Bourdain before he passed. I mean, sure I knew of him. I’d seen him all over the place, quite literally. But I didn’t know him as a person, until he passed. I thought he was just another tough guy, TV chef personality, who had an amazing life and did amazing things that I’d only dream of doing. And he was a lot of those things, but he was also kind, gentle, empathetic, and a strong women’s advocate. I know a lot of people who were really thrown by his death, and we tend to think that celebrities and seemingly happy people aren’t plagued by the same demons as those who more obviously struggle through life. I am so sad for him and his family, and for everyone who suffers with these same demons. And I love your advice to hold the fathers in our lives that much closer this fathers day, and every day we can.

    1. I’m so grateful for your thoughtful, supportive response! I had a very hard time writing this post, let alone sharing it, so I’m touched to know that it truly resonated with you, too. Thank you. <3

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