Jeff Cutler – Being Strong

January 29, 2008

Here’s the transcript to Bowl of Cheese Podcast number 35…


A coworker’s father died this week and it made me think about the fragile nature of life. I guess it doesn’t have to take a significant death to spur this type of thought, but the whole father issue is one that I’m currently wrestling with.

Perhaps ‘currently’ isn’t really accurate…maybe ‘perpetually’ is a better term because I see my father as my hero and always have. He’s the embodiment of the traits I strive to possess and the intelligence I hope to exhibit.

His insight has always been valued and on target. And his approval is always on my list of sought-after life elements.

I also admire his strength and determination. It’s what I often try to emulate when I’m faced with challenges in life.

When I say it like this, you must think that I don’t value my mother at all. Quite the contrary. I think both of my parents have equal weight in my mind and heart. I’m a total mama’s boy and the things I look for from my father are only complemented by my mother’s approval and love.


I guess it’s odd to measure how much people mean to you, because how much can you really tell until they’re gone? It’s human nature to take people for granted and expect they’ll be around the next time you look, but what if they’re not?

I’ve got two stories about this and then some more sharing.

First, in 1990 I ended a long-distance relationship and decided to try to reconnect with some friends from college. I was actually searching for a specific girl with whom I had always clicked. Her name was Elizabeth and I finally tracked her down in the fall of that year.

She and I spoke on the phone one Thursday night and we agreed to get together the next week after she returned from a business trip. When the week had passed and I hadn’t heard from her, I called her apartment.

Her roommate told me that Elizabeth’s plane had crashed over the weekend.

The other death story had to do with Will McDonough, the sportswriter. He was a friend of my father’s and a local luminary. I often saw him at the post office when I went to pick up my mail, and I thought of his success and writing style when I had the opportunity to pen features for the local paper.

But it wasn’t his writing that made his passing memorable, it was our last exchange at the post office counter. He and I talked about writing and life and palled around as if we were equals.

But Will was an award-winning writer and television analyst. He had covered sports for decades and had thousands of articles. Who was I to this giant of the writing universe? I was another writer. A colleague. A friend. A human.

I wrote an appreciation piece about Will for the local paper because when he died I felt real loss. And he was just a friend. How will I feel when my parents are gone?

In a miserable little twist of fate, I might find out sooner than I want to. My father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December and has been going through chemo and radiation for the past month or so.

As long as everything works the way it’s supposed to, my father should have a bunch more years. They caught the cancer early and the doctors are optimistic. I’m trying to be optimistic too.

But I haven’t been telling my friends because I don’t want to share my feelings. I don’t want their pity and I don’t want to acknowledge my pain.

And maybe most of all, I want to be strong in the face of this challenge. Just like my father would be.

More to come…