Intentional Dad-Interview with Dennis Gorski
Tender Lions contains interviews with six men that Jeff and I believe are extraordinary dads. One of them is Dennis Gorski. For context if someone reads this a year or more from now, we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken the lives of over 100,000 to date, an economic meltdown that might rival the great depression, and there are racial protests happening in almost every mid-sized and major city in America as a reaction to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
This coming weekend is Father’s Day. I thought it might be helpful and inspiring to read an account of one “tender lion” dad. Dads, we need you to play the role that God intended, right now.
Name: Dennis Gorski – married, father of 4, grandfather, age 55.
Fun Fact: “At one time I seriously considered and even went to school to be a Roman Catholic priest. I’m glad I never did complete that. The vow of celibacy would have prevented me from being a dad.”
Brian: Describe your dad. Dennis: He’s hardworking, fair, very intelligent, physically strong, always maintained a good relationship with my mom. Dad would protect and honor her, and they kept a united front with the kids. He took her side even when she was wrong.
Brian: Looking back, what do you appreciate most about your dad? Dennis: I really appreciated that without a good example. His father was an abusive alcoholic. My dad figured out how to be a dad well. He also supported me in becoming my own person.
Brian: What did dad do that contributed (positively or negatively) to you being man you are today? Dennis: I’m often the voice of reason and calm in times of crisis for my kids, and I got that ability to keep a cool head from my dad.
Brian: Is there anything you wish he’d done differently? Dennis: There’s nothing that I blame my parents for, but there are some things I wish were different. I’m more involved in my kids’ and grandkids’ daily lives than my dad was–attending all their sports, games, etc.
Brian: Did your dad do anything that drove you crazy at the time, but now you appreciate? Dennis: If we slept in or watched TV during the summer, and the weather was nice out, he would harp on how much he was disappointed, and I totally get that now. We’d always have to do chores first before playing, because work comes first.
Brian: What are your conversations like today? Dennis: I listen a lot, about how he is caring for my mom, how she’s doing, and his routine for doing all of the domestic duties that she can no longer do. He also asks about my business–who I’ve hired and how I’m doing things differently.
Brian: What are 2-3 things you want to take from your relationship with your dad and bring to your own sons? Dennis: Shared activities with just the guys are something I want with my son and son in-laws. I’m not a hunter by passion, but I go deer hunting every year to be with my dad. Something I want that my dad didn’t do is deeper level conversations, so I’ve been purposeful about that, calling or texting my son often.
Brian: What role did faith play in your upbringing? Dennis: Growing up Catholic, we were in church every Sunday, even if we were deer hunting on Sunday morning, we would go to mass on Saturday night. I’d see my dad praying on his knees by his bed at night–faith was a big deal.
Brian: How are you doing faith differently with your son? Dennis: I’m much more conversational with my son than my dad was with me. We share a lot about faith topics, and discuss the differences between conservative and progressive views.
Brian: What are you intentional about doing with your son that gives life to the relationship? Dennis: We have a group text with the guys only–some light talk, and there are opportunities to be intentional about deeper level things. Every morning I write out words to live by, such as “I will instill truth, confidence, and encouragement in my kids, their spouses, and my grandkids.”
Brian: What do you want to continue to be intentional about? Dennis: We are establishing some traditions now, like renting a house for the whole family to come on vacation together, reading a book together as a family, having devotions and cooking meals together. I hope to establish traditions like that with just the guys too.
Brian: What did you hope I’d ask? Dennis: Younger parents have asked my wife and I, “You guys, it appears have a great family, all your kids are connected to the church and faith and are successful and established. You seem to like each other–what did you do in the formative stages?” We say, “We’ve been blessed, we’ve been lucky.” We didn’t have family devotion time, but we prayed every night, we had family dinner a lot, read to the kids a lot, worshiped together, we disciplined them, we were not their friends when they were younger, although now we are.
Brian: If you could go back and do something different, what would it be? Dennis: We unintentionally created a performance culture, as their father I am supposed to show my kids unconditional love similar to the way God loves me despite success or failure. But we stressed the importance of good grades in school, and if you score a goal in soccer we will get ice cream afterwards. I regret that.
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This blog is an edited excerpt from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son