some things about my dad

AlisonDadThis is me and my dad, Steve Green.

He would have turned 71 today, except that he won’t because he died in 2001.

Here are some things about my dad:

* He worked as a journalist for 40 years, covering Congress and national security, among other things. After he died, Senator Barbara Boxer gave a really nice tribute to him on the Senate floor. This is part of what she said: “I got to know Steve as he kept a watchful eye on Congress for the Copley News Service and the San Diego Union-Tribune. He had a quick wit, a keen intellect and a great nose for a story. Above all, he was scrupulously fair in his reporting. And he believed that as a journalist it was his role in life to help this country realize its tremendous potential … With a wink, Steve could puncture the biggest ego. He had the uncanny ability to be skeptical without being cynical. He cared for the people he covered without coddling them. He followed serious issues without losing his sense of humor.”

* Despite this noble portrait, he also gave people the finger at inappropriate times.

* And he once hit his Hebrew school teacher when she attempted to stop him from leaving a school picnic. And remained proud of it as an adult.

* He never gave up trying to get me to read Treasure Island and David Copperfield.

* He once tried to get out of a dinner invitation a month in advance by telling the person that he had to walk his dog that night. He didn’t see why I thought this was a bad excuse.

* He was working at The Washington Post during the Watergate break-in, and his editor called him to cover the story. But he was out playing basketball, so the editor called Carl Bernstein instead. True story.

* He loved family gossip. Even at his sickest, he’d call me up and ask, “Do you have any good gossip?” He reveled in a good scandal. Here is something that one of his former editors, Barbara Cochran, said about him in his obituary:  “When he had a good story going, he would get this grin on his face — when he felt he had the goods.” This is the same grin he would get when he got ahold of some family gossip.

* In the last year before he died, he couldn’t eat much — literally couldn’t, because his esophagus had been removed and replaced with a shoddy replica that didn’t tolerate food well; he could only have liquids, and even soup was often too solid for him. Yet occasionally he would pull a chocolate bar of mysterious origins from his bathrobe pocket and eat it without any problems — I assume due to sheer force of will.

* He hated that I worked for nonprofits and thought I wouldn’t make enough money. He desperately wanted me to change career paths, but when anyone asked him about it, he’d bite his tongue and say, “We raised Alison to stand up for what she believes in.” Then he would secretly send me job ads he’d clipped from the paper and suggest that I go work in PR.

My dad died when I was 27, so he didn’t get to see me publish a book or buy a house or write this blog or do any of the other things I’m doing now. He would have really liked it.

Sometimes I’ll see a man who sort of looks like him from the back — always in grocery stores, for some reason — and I’ll let myself pretend it’s him for a minute. But it never is.

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. jmkenrick*

    Sounds like a fun and fascinating guy. Sucks that you don’t get to see him on his birthday, but it’s wonderful that you have such positive memories of him.

    P.S. He was right about Treasure Island, you know.

      1. Anonymous*

        No no…its real fun (I’m a girl!) I really enjoyed it as a kid…and I was one of those Enid Blyton avid readers.

        ‘Tis not too late still…!

      2. jmkenrick*

        I could see people calling it that, but I would counter that a lot of wonderful books are written “for” boys, but can be enjoyed by girls just as easily.

        Which leads me to a huge pet peeve…boys who refuse to take “girl” books seriously. Ugh.

  2. Katya*

    This is a wonderful tribute to your father. Thanks for sharing it with your readers, and best wishes.

  3. Steve Geoghan*

    Sorry Allison.

    Follow your blog because you post so much and discuss so many real, granular problems. Can’t wait to see what will come up next.

  4. Anonymous in Chicago*

    I burst into tears as I read the last sentence. This is beautiful, thank you for sharing. And I am sending you a huge virtual hug.

    1. JessB*

      Me too! I’ve been spending a lot of time with my Dad over the past year, since my Mum left him. We shop together on Saturdays, at first so I could teach him what to get, but now it’s the highlight of my week. He’s such a great person.

      Sending you love Alison. I think your Dad would be so proud you can write so well, and bring so much to so many people.

  5. Anonymous*

    AAM, sorry to hear, but I appreciate you posting this tribute to your dad.

    I never really had a father figure to look up to so your post brought smiles to my face.

    There’s really only been one “father figure” I’ve had and that was my mentor at my internship. Although it was for a short period of time, he still impacts me even today. With that being said, I thank you for all of your advice and especially for this blog. It’s the only place where I can truly depend on for advice on mentorship and career. Know that your blog impacts many people and that your dad would be proud!

  6. Christine*

    Wonderful post Allison…thanks so much for sharing that. Also sending you a virtual hug.

    P.S. Aside from one of my nieces, I can’t say I’ve ever seen an infant with such RED hair…I love that! Very cute picture.

      1. Lina*

        I hate being a redhead. Too easy to spot. Too memorable. Never could get away with anything in school.

        I’m sorry Alison. I think he did see you do those things, if that helps. However, I believe that no words will ever make someone feel better about something like this.

      2. Christine*

        To be honest, I have no idea how she feels about her hair…she’s only 9, so she may not have thought about it just yet. I’ll have to ask my sister (who’s a brunette!).

    1. Anonymous*

      Ditto on the red hair. I’m a graying redhead, and my oldest son has hair so flagrantly and awesomely red that he wound up being taken to the principal’s office the other day because a teacher thought he was dying his hair outside the dress code (i.e. no color that doesn’t appear naturally). It’s that insanely red. LOVE IT.

      I loved this piece. The Bernstein story is wonderful. If it’s any comfort, to my outside/stranger/don’tknowyoufromaholeintheground eye, it appears that he really, really lives on in you. And can see and enjoy everything that you’re doing now.

      Memories are good. Great memories are the best.

  7. Erica*

    Beautiful post. I truly wish I knew the right words, because I’d love to hear them. Five months today. You know where to find me if you want to talk.

    To dads!

  8. Anonymous*

    I’m sure he is looking down on you, knowing all of your accomplishments and is with you always, especially in times of need.

    So why did he hit the Hebrew school teacher?

    PS L’shana tova to you and yours.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      He wanted to leave the school picnic and go visit his grandfather’s mattress factory. The teacher was not about to let that happen. But he hit her, and then happen it did.

  9. Caitlin*

    Thank you for such a lovely look into your life – your father sounds like a simply great guy who loved you and wanted the best for you. That story about Watergate is priceless! That last picture made me tear up – I bet so many girls have pictures like that with their daddies.

  10. Jackie*

    Aw, this brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful piece of your life to share. I’m sure he’s looking down on you, very proud! Thanks for sharing!

  11. dee*

    This post about your Father brought me to tears. Makes me want to go home and spend time with my dad. I believe that this world and the next dimension is paper thin. Know your Father is always with you, has seen all your accomplishments and is very prod of you. Thanks for sharing. Virtual hug from me to you.

  12. Susan*

    That was lovely…thank you for sharing, which allowed me to remember all my (step)dad’s wonderfulness tonight.

    Big Hugs {{ }}

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      He and his younger brother got bored and wanted to visit their grandfather’s mattress factory so they decided to leave. A kindly Hebrew school teacher tried to stop them, grabbed his arm, and he … hit her and ran off :)

  13. Danielle*

    I lost my dad young, so people tell me this all the time, but I think it’s true, and I know it is in your case too – he’s really proud of you. You do good work and you truly help people who are often in dire circumstances – unemployed or trapped in bad jobs. That’s something to be very proud of.

  14. Shawn*

    What a wonderful remembrance of your father. I saw your update on FB and immediately clicked on it…yesterday my mother passed away after a 5 week nightmare battle with lung cancer and I’m so overwhelmed and trying to cope. It’s helping me to hear stories of other people who have lost their parent…it doesn’t seem possible to understand right now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Shawn, I’m so sorry. My dad had cancer too. It’s awful.

      All I can tell you is that while you will always miss her, it does get easier. Hang in there.

    2. Aimee*


      My mom died a couple of years ago after a nine month battle with cancer. It’s terrible and heartbreaking but it does get easier. And sometimes worse. And then easier again. I started to seek out others who had lost a parent and that really helped me. That and refined sugar..

  15. Lynda*

    Sending warm thoughts to you – your dad would be so proud of you for all the people’s lives you’ve changed. I’ve recommended your blog to so many people who are jobless and desperate, with the knowledge it will help them feel better. Many hugs.

  16. Karen Datangel*

    Sorry to hear about your father, Alison. However, it’s always nice to see something personal from a favorite blogger, such as this lovely tribute to him. I’m sure he is very proud of you. And as a recent journalism graduate, it’s great to hear that he was so accomplished and well-respected in the field. Wow, to think that he could have covered Watergate though…If you don’t mind me asking, has he ever expressed any regret or otherwise?

    Great post. Thank you for sharing with us. He sounded like a great man.

  17. Travis W.*

    “He had a quick wit, a keen intellect and a great nose for a story.”

    Like father, like daughter. Your blog honors his memory. Be proud.

  18. Emily*

    What a very touching post. I’m sure your dad is very proud of you. You have helped so many people with your wonderful advice! Thank you for sharing!

  19. Anonymous*

    I teared up too reading the last line. I’m sure he’s watching & thrilled with what you’ve achieved so far …

  20. Anon.*

    He sounds like quite a guy! .. and a wonderful father too. Thank you for sharing your memories of him.

  21. Long Time Admin*


    Me, too. And it hurts when I think, just for a nano-second, that it *is* my dad or mother, and I immediately know it isn’t.

    Your dad sounds like a great guy!

    1. Long Time Admin*

      “Sometimes I’ll see a man who sort of looks like him from the back — always in grocery stores, for some reason — and I’ll let myself pretend it’s him for a minute. But it never is.”

      This was supposed to be the first paragraph.

  22. Aimee*

    My mom died a couple of years ago when I was 31. She was the best person I’ve ever known and my best friend. I had the most vivid dream about her last night and spent most of my my morning routine teary eyed and achy. Your post is the first thing I read this morning and exactly what I needed.

    I’m sorry for our losses, but thank you so much for sharing.

  23. Eunice*

    So they say “don’t cry at work” but I always read your blog while eating my breakfast in the cafeteria and I could NOT HELP but tear up at this wonderfully put memorial!!!! You pulled at my heartstrings and I can only imagine the pain you must’ve went through when you lost him. Thanks for your memories, they touched my heart.

  24. Karyn*

    This was a lovely and touching post.

    My husband’s father passed away last February, the day after Valentine’s Day. The last thing he did on earth was to have us send John’s mother flowers with a note that said, “Sweetheart, all my love, love for a lifetime. I’ll see you later.” I’d like to think all fathers who loved the mothers of their children sit up there together and compare stories. :) I’m sure yours does.


      1. Karyn*

        Your father sounds like a beautiful man, just like my husband’s. Cancer is the most insidious disease, but it can’t break someone’s spirit and won’t kill their memory. I loved reading the stories about your father, because they brought back memories of my father in law. Thank you for that.

        And as a fellow Jew, there are some Hebrew school teachers he could whack for me if he’s feeling particularly bored up in Heaven. :)

  25. Andrea*

    You look so much like him! I used to be embarrassed at how much I took after my dad, but now I find it oddly comforting that I have his nose.

    I’m sure he’d still be proud of you. Thanks for sharing!

  26. hnahk*

    trying very hard not to cry at work right now. thanks for sharing such a beautiful tribute.


  27. Anonymous*

    I love the story of how he wanted you to change careers, but if anyone asked, he stood up for you. What a great dad.

  28. class factotum*

    My dad died 14 years ago. I will still dream that I hear him talking in the kitchen. I always wake up and run to see if he’s there, even though I’ve only been in this house 3 years. Every time, it is a crushing disappointment when I realize it was just a dream.

  29. Anonymous*

    Sounds like he was a very lucky man to have you as a daughter and you were very fortunate to have him as your dad

  30. Just me*

    I couldn’t read it all here at work, I was tearing up too badly. I lost my mom at 28 and she never got to meet my second son or to watch both my boys grow and develop into the fantastic young men that they are… I feel your pain vividly. But thank you for sharing as I feel it is a way of helping all of us to cope and to continue to heal.

  31. Happy Worker*

    It was my dad’s birthday a couple of days ago and I was thinking of him too. I found myself missing him more this year than I had the last couple of years. Thanks for writing this: it made me smile.

  32. HDL*

    Thanks for the wonderful tribute that brought tears to my eyes! I know how you feel. My mother died when I was 26, so she didn’t see me get married, finish my PhD, or have my first baby. I’m sure your dad is just proud of you as my mom is of me!

  33. Lisa*

    I cried at the last two lines– I lost the woman I considered my mother just after my 18th birthday and I think the same way about her. I think about her every day and I don’t think I’d ever want that to change, even though missing her hurts. Thanks for sharing, Alison.

  34. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who left such nice comments here. I’ve teared up reading some of them. I wasn’t sure how this post would go over — it’s not exactly career advice — and I’m so moved that it moved other people. Thank you.

    1. Cheryl*

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m always surprised that people don’t talk more about death and loss, since it’s such a big part of life that affects everyone (as you can see from the comments here). I, too, lost my father at 27 before I felt I had really “accomplished” very significant with my life. I just keep reminding myself that I am who I am and where I am in life because of my father’s influence – and that is something that will stick with me forever. Virtual hug.

  35. Laura*

    That was lovely. Thank you for sharing. I’m calling my dad first thing tomorrow (a bit late tonight, or I’d call him this second).

  36. Nilu*

    This post reminds me of my Dad. He passed away when I was 22. Loved him to death!

    Very sweet tribute…touched by it. Your father would be so proud of you!

  37. Anonymous*

    Happy Birthday to my Uncle. This is so great and revealed some
    stories I had not heard before i.e. Watergate. He is always with you
    and I loved so many things about him. I see some of him
    in Jack.

  38. Nora*

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. My dad was cut from a similar cloth in that generation (including living in DC in the ’70s and working “near” the Hill) and is also dismayed at my choices to work at non-profits, but he is the proudest of anyone when he talks about me to third parties. Thank you for sharing this and I hope you are comforted by what sound like some wonderful memories.

  39. 7th Child*

    That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing those memories. Even though he is not physically near you I truly believe our loved ones are with us and keep us strong and comfort us when we need it.

    I still miss my dad who died when I was 14. I sometimes feel like I barely had time to get to know him. So memories are so precious.

    Ok, I can’t see my keyboard anymore through the tears.
    hugs to you.

  40. Alex*

    I lost my father when I was 28 (and my mother just this year at 30), so I can relate to your story in so many ways. Especially seeing someone in the grocery store that reminds you of them! This article was a really great tribute to who your dad was and the impact he made on your life – nicely done.

  41. Becky*

    This was just…absolutely lovely to read. Your father sounds like he was a fantastic individual. I kept grinning at parts even while my eyes welled up. (The chocolate bar bit! And of course, punching the poor Hebrew teacher.) Thank you for sharing him with us.

    My dad passed away when I was twenty, so I can definitely relate. He was also a big fan of helpfully forcing first test guides, then college guides, then internship ones on me throughout the years. (Huge advocate of tons of preparation beforehand.) Since he isn’t around to try to advise me on the job quest, I’ve done my research solo, and well, your site has been so tremendously helpful.

  42. Crystal*

    Wow. I loved reading this blog a lot. My dad just passed in June and I am 27 right now. It’s so hard but for some twisted reason it makes it easier knowing I’m not the only one that lost my dad young and so many are younger then me. I truly enjoy your blogs sense of humor and I would have to say you must have your dad’s quick wit. Thank you for some soul bearing. It’s so refreshing.

  43. Joe*

    That was a beautiful and touching tribute. I feel that you achieved the impossible: in just a short bulleted list, you gave me a view of who a man was that I never had the opportunity to meet. I’m sure there is so much more you could say about him, but your love, respect, fondness, and enjoyment for/of your dad really comes through.

    Thank you for sharing.

  44. katie*

    my dad died 7.5 years ago when i was 14, and there’s not a day that goes by without me thinking of him.

    i don’t believe in god or heaven and hell, or any of that, but i’m sure our dads are somewhere, watching us.. maybe having a drink and all. who knows?

  45. Job seeker*

    What a wonderful post. Alison, I lost my dad in my 20’s so I understand the part about them not getting to see many things. My dad never got to walk me down the aisle when I got married. I walked down the aisle at church to meet my husband alone. No-one could have taken his place or filled his shoes. He never saw my children or my sister’s youngest children. There are many things I wish he could have been here to share. He passed away with cancer also. I can see why you are so talented. This is such a beautiful tribute to your father. I am sure this touched your mom with all the things you said. Your love for him shines through this post. He would be so very proud of you.

  46. PJ*

    You just made reference to this in a post today. Thank you for sharing it. It brought up loving memories of my own father. You’re right — the opportunity to talk about our lost loved ones is a gift.

    Your father sounds like he was a really great dad. You’ve done him proud, and from my own particular faith tradition I can say that I believe he knows it.

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