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The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 27, 2010
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Questions for Bruce Feiler on Council of Dads
Q: A Council of Dads is a very original response to receiving a cancer diagnosis. What brought you to this idea of leaving a legacy of voices for your daughters?
A: My daughters had just turned three when I first learned I was sick. I instantly imagined all the moments from their lives I would miss: The ballet recitals I wouldn't see, the boyfriends I wouldn't scowl at, the aisles I wouldn't walk down. Mostly I worried that my girls would miss my voice. Three days later I awoke with a thought, "Here's a way to help my daughters know their father. Reach out to the men who helped make me who I am, and ask them to convey a different message to my girls: How to travel, how to live, how to dream."
Q: How did the Dads react when you invited them to join your Council?
A: The conversations were some of the most meaningful I’ve ever had. It made me realize how rare it is to sit down with your friends and tell them what they really mean to you. I think every one of them cried. Even more remarkable was how seriously they took their roles. Overnight they became a meaningful presence in the girls' lives--a new figure that was different from family, deeper than a friend.
Q: What does your wife think of the Council? Did she help build it?
A: The whole experience brought us closer and deepened Linda's relationship with the men. One reason is that if the Council ever needed to convene for its original purpose Linda would be the one who would have to orchestrate it. But more than that, having a Council created a new kind of community in our lives and gave her a window into how men relate to their friends. The experience was so powerful she's now created her own Council of Moms.
Q: Can anyone create a Council? What advice would you give someone who wants to create their own Council of Dads or Council of Moms?
A: I’ve been amazed by how this idea has spread so quickly. It seems nearly every parent has thought at one time or another about not seeing their kids grow up. I've been especially touched that divorced parents, single moms, military families--so many different people have asked for tips. Some people who lost a parent when they were younger are making Councils retroactively. I decided to set up a website, councilofdads.com, which has a tool kit and a mini-social network where you can communicate with your Council privately.
Q: How are you feeling these days? And what role does the Council play in your life now?
A: Nearly two years after I was diagnosed, I am now cancer-free, though like any survivor I get scanned every few months. (I keep an ongoing cancer diary at brucefeiler.com.) But no matter what happens, our Council will continue. It's the most uplifting community we've ever created; it helps us through adversity; and it reminds us every day to celebrate the friendships we are blessed to have.
The Feiler Family
(Click on Thumbnails to Enlarge)
From Publishers Weekly
In 2008, bestselling author Feiler (Walking the Bible) learned he had a rare, life-threatening tumor in his left leg. Fearing what his absence would do to the lives of his young daughters, Feiler asked six close friends ("Men who know my voice") to help raise them. Feiler chronicles his battle with cancer, from diagnosis to recovery, as well as his sentimental but moving journey to recruit friends who can carry out his wish to teach his daughters to travel, dream, and live life to its fullest. Feiler's intimate bond with his friends makes them unusually expressive and communicative (if lacking in humor), and their own biographies lend further inspirational dimensions to the story. Though his letters to friends and family can get ornate ("The Brooklyn Bridge...is looking fresh-faced and handsome overhead, its famed promenade glittering like the pot of gold at the end of a long journey to come"), it's hard not to get swept along and cheer Feiler on as he fights for his life and his daughters'.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Most likely, you and your wife cry, and pray, and seek the best medical care you can find.
Bruce Feiler and his wife did all that, but Feiler also did something else. He organized a group of friends, a team of men, a council of dads to stand ready to teach Feiler's daughters what he might not be here to teach them himself.
Feiler also did something else, something that writers must do: he wrote about it. He wrote about the men, what they had taught him, and would teach his daughters, and about other men- his father and grandfathers and mentors - and what they had taught him. He wrote it all into The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me.
I bought the book in part because I like Feiler's writing. I've read at least three of his previous books and gave another - Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus - to my son, who, like Feiler, at one point in his life didn't exactly run away from home but did leave for a time, moving his things into a small compartment on the circus train and riding the rails out of town with the "greatest show on Earth."
My son and I both learned things from that experience. In Dads, Feiler writes about the things he has learned, and about the lessons he wants to daughters to learn: How to see, how to dream, how to think, how to travel, how to remember, and, yes, how to live.
And there are other lessons, including Feiler's father's encouragement to his children as young adults to allow themselves to do more than simply dream:
"Take a year. Give it a try. When you're fifty years old, you will have spent two percent of your life trying to make your dream come true. And when you look back, I think you'll realize it was a good two percent."
And then there are the lessons Feiler learned from the experience of his illness, lessons about being someone's child and someone else's parent, about embracing the monster, about walking with a turtle, and why we should "always learn to juggle on the side of a hill."
I am not going to explain hillside juggling or turtle walking because I really want you to buy the book and read and learn for yourself - and, yes, for your children.
I enjoyed it so much I purchased a copy for my daughter and son-in-law (who are the parents of our two grandchildren).