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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Daddying the Undaddied

Guest Post by Richard Yudell, MD

Classmates Richard Yudell and Allan Shedlin, reunited 2019

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week’s guest post is written by Richard Yudell, MD, a high school classmate of mine from back in the 14th or 15th century, whichever came first. There is something about being friends during the crescendo of one’s adolescence that creates a unique bond, one that enables one to pick up decades later as if you had spoken the day before, even after years without direct communication. The shared experience of navigating the often-rocky shoals between late childhood and early adulthood, and coming out the other end, can enable deep conversations to occur without too much preliminary small talk.

As Richard is a psychiatrist and I am a lifelong educator who has spent the past 30 years focused on helping fathers become the dads they want to be, it is not surprising that one of our initial conversations upon reconnecting was about our respective experiences as sons who both wished our fathers had been more positively present in our lives. That first conversation was almost three years ago, and, at the time, I invited Richard to contribute a guest post about his feelings on the topic.

This is what he sent me three years later:

Dear Allan,

When I told you about my father story – the day my father took me out to the golf course with him – I wanted to hear your father story. [Mine] was not what I expected, nor was it what you expected, and so you asked me to write about it.

"Wait until after the Inauguration," I pleaded, being a political news junkie with a degree in political science, hoping for a smooth democratic transition that January 20th.

Well, that didn't happen.

Furthermore, my own [father story] was rather choppy, and I didn't particularly want to revisit it (we're talking 2020!). But maybe this "Daddying" exercise is something I needed, so here it goes…

Richard with his Father, 1943

My parents split up in an era when it was less common, and my world trembled. Prior to my 13th birthday, when I was supposed to be admitted into the "adult male club." Unfortunately, I had not yet been properly inducted into the "child of an adult male club member," so the progressive school I attended suggested my mother persuade my father to spend more time with me. Typical of a progressive school that had all its ducks in a row. Someone in the school was looking out for me.

Well, the beautiful day arrived when my father offered to take me to a golf course. What I remembered, all too etched in my young mind, was that as my father and the other duffers were getting ready to tee off, he took me aside and told me to wait outside the clubhouse until he returned. It was an endless wait. An 18-hole round of golf with a foursome often takes 3 to 4 hours to complete.

Arriving home at the end of the day, I told my mother, "Daddy said I would bring him bad luck, so I waited for him."

(She was shocked). "He said WHAT?!" she snapped.

I'm not sure how I rationalized it then, or even now, but this guest post you offered me opened areas in my mind's eye I never really knew existed. Yes, my father was superstitious, and very competitive. He thought I would throw his game off; that I’d be a distraction.

Looking back now, I remember how my father took me out to drive for my learner's permit, but not out driving. He took me to the ski slope, but not skiing. He took me out to the golf course, but not golfing. He took me along as his son, but not for "daddying."

It is much clearer now, though my eyes tear up as I cry for me, for him, and also for my mom.

With love, Rich

P.S. - Allan, I see so many "undaddied" in my life's work that your empathy has awakened me to, and which I instinctively have been daddying for my sake, as well as theirs. Thank you – Namaste.

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Dr. Richard Yudell is a son and a psychiatrist. He was born at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia, where he would later do his psych residency. His family later moved to New York City, where he and his two sisters attended a school that taught "Where persons meet to seek the highest is holy ground," a credo that became his mantra guiding his activism against the Vietnam War and the misguided use of war as the way humans choose to resolve problems of existence.

He studied Political Science at New York University, was later granted a degree in Medicine & Surgery in 1976 from the University of Bologna Italy, and upon returning to the US, he became board-certified in Psychiatry and Neurology. Continuing the meritorious work of Sigmund Freud as a psychiatrist, Richard gratefully received the Robert Jones Award for commitment and service to the chronically mentally ill from the local chapter of the American Psychiatric Association.

Richard met DCG Founder Allan Shedlin while both were students at Fieldston High School, part of New York’s Ethical Culture Schools, where Allan would later serve as an elementary principal. In agreeing to be a guest writer for the Daddying blog, Richard says he sought "to be present at making the most positive pitcher of lemonade a son could create and I couldn’t have been happier doing it!"


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