In March of 1992, my mother insisted my father and I take off together on spring break to look at colleges. She felt strongly we needed father-son time. Having moved back to the United States from Dubai in 1990, my dad continued to work in Dubai, traveling back and forth every twenty-eight days. In 1992, we had as much in common as, well, there are no appropriate analogies. We had very little in common.
My dad was a former high school basketball coach. He loved football and basketball. I was the prototypical high school nerd, much more interested in polling analysis of an obscure congressional district and computers than in sports scores. I envisioned a two week road trip, stuck in the car conversationless unless someone on the radio made a reference to Hagar the Horrible — a love for the funny papers and barbeque was about all my dad and I shared.
I remember what happened distinctly. I drove the miserable drive between Jackson, LA and Macon, GA, along I-10 to Mobile and then up I-65 to Montgomery. We stopped the first night in Montgomery, after a day of intermittent conversation filled mostly with road noise, wind, and my choice of music, which included lots of “Losing My Religion” and “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” both by R.E.M. My dad and I talked about college some. We talked about the family some. We decided to go on up to my sister’s house in Virginia after visiting Mercer University in Macon, GA, and then go to see Duke .
The next morning, my dad insisted we ditch the interstate and take back roads through rural Alabama into rural Georgia. For the first couple of hours in the car, we turned from one radio station to another only to have them fade out. Finally, my dad switched to the AM dial intent on finding Paul Harvey or a sports program. Instead, he landed on a tune he recognized as the Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone.” He assumed it was sports or something. It was something alright. It was Rush Limbaugh.
For three hours we listened in. I got my political fix. My dad got his sports fix. We talked and laughed together in a way we rarely had. I never knew my dad had such a fascination with politics. He was surprised I knew who some of the football teams were Rush was talking about. Those three hours flew by.
The next day, we pushed up my tour of Mercer so we could be in the car by noon. For three hours we drove through rural Georgia enjoying the scenery, talking about history, laughing along with Rush, and enjoying each other’s company. After seventeen years, it was like we had just discovered our friendship.
We arrived in Norfolk, VA late that night, both with dry throats from talking so much. The next day, we insisted my sister tune in with us. It was family time around the radio. Here we were listening to some guy we had never heard of four days before, laughing along with him, talking to each other and to him as if he was with us, discussing a host of topics — not just politics, but sports, restless leg syndrome, and more.
Over the next dozen years, my dad and I talked about a lot more. We had really developed a great friendship. There were still the letters from Dubai filled with his favorite Hagar and Far Side cartoons, along with the occasional hundred dollar bill affixed to a Post-It Note that read “Don’t tell your mother.” But there were now also other small notes. When he was state side, he’d call and we would have the evening Limbaugh play by play, along with a recap of LSU’s highlights.
Rush had become and remains an integral part of our relationship. Growing up, my sisters and I knew that between noon and 12:15 it was a capital crime to make noise lest my dad not be able to hear Paul Harvey. Now my nieces and nephews all gather around the radio from eleven to two central time to join in the conversation.
Last year my dad called me. He was out of breath. It has been a few years since he had a heart attack, my mom was out of town, I was 800 miles from him, and I was worried. “I’m fine,” he said. He’d just nearly run his truck off the road, though. He heard Rush Limbaugh talk about his “good friend Erick Erickson from RedState.” My dad had told me at other times in my life that he was proud of me. But he was calling that day, from the side of the road, to tell me again. And his voice was somehow different. There was a real level of pride in his voice, and a thrill that Rush Limbaugh called his namesake a friend. There’d be bragging rights in the local barber shop and church too.
I’ve talked to Rush and emailed Rush, but I’ve never had a chance to share this with him. After 16 years of listening, I owe Rush Limbaugh some thanks.
Regularly now, I fill in on a local talk radio show in Macon. Between being a right-wing blogger at RedState and sometimes radio show host, Rush sets a high bar for excellence. It’s also a bar I know few if any others will ever reach, but it is certainly worth reaching for. Rush is unique.
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