It’s with sadness that I report on the passing of my father, Richard T. Dolan, yesterday evening on December 2. He was 79 years old, just one month from turning 80. He lived a full life, filled with triumphs and disappointments, like most of us. His last few years saw declining health and ever-greater restrictions on his ability to engage in life the way he was always used to doing.
Earlier today, I posted this statement on my Facebook personal page — a place I haven’t been especially active but feel was appropriate to use for this occasion. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here with you as well. I’ll simply add that in writing all of my books, and especially my first one, he was always the primary audience in my mind: no-nonsense, smart, open-minded, and needing evidence at all times.
This was me and my father in the Fall of 1980. I was 18 years old and scared out of my mind, hours away from my first day, far from home, at Alfred University. I couldn’t even eat my breakfast. There’s my dad. Ever-present cigar. And that look. To me, that was his classic look: confident, proud of his family. He always made me feel special, and taught me more than I can possibly recount here. One thing, for now, however.
I was about 11 years old or so, and he was in his prime, in New York City’s police department, dealing with gangs who had contracts out on his life, and a corrupt bureaucracy against which he was always at odds. He sat me down and said, “now listen. There will come a day when you will be fighting your own wars, and you might be a minority of one, being shouted down by a thousand people who are trying to silence you. But if you have truth, and if you have justice on your side, you won’t back down. You’ll stand up and you will prevail. Got that?”
Even then I felt there was something unusually powerful going on in that moment. I thought, “fighting wars? What’s he talking about?” But all I remember saying was “yes, I will. I’ll do that.”
My father, Richard T. Dolan was very complex, sometimes difficult, but always larger than life. He was nicknamed MadDog for a reason. He had a gift, despite the tough guy veneer, of being remarkably open emotionally when the time was right. We talked about our feelings quite a lot, not only way back then but right up until he died yesterday. In so many ways he was my role model, and truly not a day has gone by during my entire adulthood when I haven’t at least briefly referenced him in my thoughts. He has loomed as such a presence in my life all these years, and I am beyond grateful that he was my father.
Thanksgiving dinner, 2018.
One of his typical moments of craziness, sometime in the 1980s.
I always liked this pic, having fun somewhere nice.
My parents dating circa 1957. Those tiny Brooklyn apartments!