Friday, July 7, 2006 | A good friend of the family died on Monday and it’s got me thinking about life.
His name was Jerry Mahoney and when I was younger, he and his wife were friends with my mom and dad. His son, Kevin, was my best friend (besides my twin brother, of course).
My dad and Mr. Mahoney played handball. My mom and Mrs. Mahoney had great conversations and we built tree houses at Kevin’s house.
Mr. Mahoney (as I called him) was not my dad but he was a good guy to me and a good role model for any kid. He worked as an ombudsman at San Diego State University for a while and spent his whole life sticking up for the little guy.
But he wasn’t afraid of being brutally honest. One time it was his birthday and I told him, “Happy birthday.”
He said, “That’s a nice thing to say.”
Then I asked, “How old are you?”
He then said, “That’s not a nice thing to say.”
I have good memories of Mr. Mahoney but they’re the type of memories that get better the more I delve into the parenting waters. One year, on Kevin’s birthday, he took us all miniature golfing and frankly I sucked.
None of us played golf so when it came time to announce the winner, he made a point of announcing that I had the highest score.
“Oh wow, that means David won,” said one of the other kids.
Mr. Mahoney paused for a moment. Perhaps, he was trying to find a way to break the news gently and realized he couldn’t.
“Uh, actually, in golf, the lowest score wins.”
I have other memories but many of them defy anecdotes. I remember him being a guy who would treat an intelligent person as an intelligent person no matter their age.
In 1972, that meant telling kids that it was very possible that the leader of the free world was a paranoid crook (not his words, my dad’s) while still remembering the virtues that made America great.
I realize now how important that is. I am now raising two kids into being good adults and in order for that to happen, I have to answer their questions and comments honestly without pulling the wool over their eyes.
Frankly, I remember Mr. Mahoney being the guy who told me the truth about myself rather than pull the “you’re-special-in-your-own-way” crap that passes for good child rearing.
The joke among the Moyes and Mahoneys is that the Moye boys were such klutzes that we were banned from seeing Kevin for a week after Christmas so that he’d get seven days to play with his toys without them breaking.
It hurt at the time and it hurts now. But it did make a difference. It made me be more careful about other people than I was. I’m still a klutz at times but, thanks to Mr. Mahoney, I haven’t broken another kid’s toy in nearly 25 years.
My daughter, Alex, is three and barely started on the friendship road. However, Mr. Mahoney’s death reminds me how I will not only be influencing her behavior through my actions but also those of her friends.
I may end up being the weird Dad who talks about things the kids don’t understand or I may be the weird Dad who’s fun because he’s weird but, either way, my kid’s friends will learn some things about life they won’t – or can’t – learn from their parents.
If I do half as good a job as Mr. Mahoney at being a friend’s parent, I will consider myself very lucky.
David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who sends condolences to his friends, Kevin and Julie. Send a letter to the editor here.