What the passing of Jim Redmond teaches us about fatherhood and the tragic situation afflicting the millions of suffering American men who are without jobs, families, professions, and most of all, deep meaning. It is not a “them” problem, it is an “us” problem.
In the semifinal heat of the men’s 400 meters race at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games, British runner Derek Redmond tore his hamstring in the middle of the race. Derek began to hobble to the finish line on one leg. His father, Jim, rushed past track officials to help his son make it to the finish line, dramatically holding him up as his son wept in his arms.
Yesterday, the man who made this moment happen, Jim Redmond passed away
It is the most poignant moment I have ever witnessed in a sporting event. But what often gets missed is that Jim had to fight to carry his son. Track officials came up to him multiple times as he assisted his son towards the finish line and every time he aggressively waved them off, refusing to abandon his son at the most fragile — and public — moment of his life. Watch it and try not to weep — there is a purity of love and transcendent affection on display that most of us never witness in our everyday lives.
I could not help but feel a personal connection to the timing of Jim’s death. My father passed away a little over a year ago and today is his birthday; he would have been the same age of Mr. Redmond, eighty-one-years-old.
He had a terrible and macabre end — the kind of death one reads about in books or watches in movies that makes a normal person shudder in terror at the prospect of his own end. The doctors discovered the brain cancer first. Then they found out it had originated from the lungs. Just as they his doctors started his treatment, he contracted COVID and was put on an arbitrary and unnecessary twenty-day quarantine. He was already weak and in a precipitous decline.
I knew with the quarantine I would never see him again.
I went outside and sat under the stars and composed the final text I would ever send to him:
“Dad—I just got off the phone with you. You sound discouraged. And I would be too. I can’t imagine how you are feeling. But whatever happens I just want to tell you one thing, and I really want you to hear it . . . . You were the ABSOLUTE BEST FATHER a baby, and a boy, and a teenager, and a man could have ever had. I am many many things in this life, but nothing makes me prouder than being your son. Always. Forever. I know you prayed over candles when I was about to get born. And I wish I could somehow return the favor now when you need it. If you need ANYTHING, anything at all, please call me. I love you dad!”
He couldn’t reply with anything other than an emoji heart symbol.
Just fifteen days later he was gone.
There were so many times I needed my own dad’s shoulder in the forty-five years he fathered me. So many times, he was there when I limped through different segments of life.
But now, with three of my own children, I have also discovered the tender splendors of being a father myself. I used to always imagine being a disappointed Derek on the track of life, but now I know and revere the necessity of being a Jim, of acting as a paternal pillar in the tumultuous lives of my children. I know that fatherhood is about more than locking the door at night and putting food on the table — it’s about conditioning our children to embrace the journey of life, the ecstasies and the agonies, the moments of exhilaration and delight along with the pulses of pain and depths of despair. Making no promises along the way except for the presence of unconditional love.
A lot has been written and said in recent weeks about the declining fate of males in American civil society. The widening schism of educational attainment between the sexes. The reality that the labor market is evolving in ways that are far less lucrative for traditional blue-collar jobs than service, female-dominated industries. The anecdotal testimony of teachers across America that the boys are less motivated, less ambitious, less organized and polished.
I cannot imagine what the future must hold for this country — so many young men are ill-equipped to be positive father figures to their children and many will never even try. Talk to American teenagers and for so many of them their fathers are a source of pain, a dysfunctional fantasia of paternal neglect and absence.
Andrew Sullivan and Richard Reeves released an extraordinary podcast last week about Reeves’s new book, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It. What sticks out about their extraordinary conversation is their own testimonies about the power of male models in their lives — teachers, fathers, friends.
And because we are beings who learn by example, who are social creatures who need guidance navigating the tricky ecosystems of life, the absence and decline of such models is a national calamity and a personal impoverishment for so many of my students who have almost no adult males in their corner of life.
Everyone suffers when men fail to engage their families and communities.
That’s why Jim Redmond’s heroic rescue of his injured son is forever etched in my memory as the penultimate embodiment of what a loving father looks like.
Jeremy S. Adams is the author of Hollowed Out: A Warning About America’s Next Generation, recently released in paperback. He has taught American civics for 24 years in Bakersfield, California and was the 2014 California Teacher of the Year (DAR). You can follow him on Twitter @JeremyAdams6.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.