COVER STORY: Retreat to reinforce father-son bond

Keaton and Stephen Kukowski.

By FRAN PERRITANO

If there is an old movie playing somewhere, you’re likely to find Stephen and Keaton Kukowski’s eyes fixed on the silver screen.
Or, if there’s a stereo playing some of the “oldies,” the father and son might just be groovin’ together.

There are many bonds between fathers and sons, but a special one between Stephen, 44, and his 13-year-old son is watching classic films and listening to not-so-modern music.

“We especially enjoy watching vintage films together and share a similar sense of humor and taste in music,” Stephen said. “I often marvel at Keaton when he mentions an actor or film from, say, the 1930s, and wonder whether any other kids his age share such interests. It’s things like that which help create a special bond between us.”

Keaton, a student at Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School, seconds that.

“We like watching old movies and go to see a lot of them at the Capitol Theatre in Rome,” he said. “I also listen to a lot of the music my parents grew up with. That, and just spending time together, is great.”

The pair is going to get another chance to watch an old movie together in March when they plan to be a part of a Father-Son Retreat sponsored by Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament Parish at the Good News Foundation.

The 1989 film “Dad” — starring Jack Lemmon, Ted Danson, Ethan Hawke and Olympia Dukakis – will be part of the retreat Friday, March 8. The overnight retreat for father and sons (ages 12 and older) begins at 6:30 p.m. March 8 and ends at the 4:30 p.m. Mass Saturday, March 9, at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament.

“Saturday sessions will deal with ‘It’s Not Easy Being a Man,’ ‘What Am I Supposed to Do with My Life?’ and ‘St. Joseph and Jesus’ as role models for fathers and sons,” said Mike Zasa, who will facilitate the retreat. “There will be free time to share together and spend time learning more about and deepening relationships.”

Mike said the idea for the retreat came to him as he was reflecting on what we could do as a church community during the year of faith that started in October.

“Very often, men are lacking from church activities for one reason or another, and fathers and sons really don’t spend a lot of time sharing their beliefs and spiritual experiences with each other,” he said. “I thought this would be a good time to do both.”

Anne Elacqua, Faith Formation director for seventh through 10th grades, said it would be wonderful if at least 12 to 14 families participated.

“I would truly hope that many more would attend,” she said. “Since I don’t have anything to compare it to, it is just high hopes that God will motivate fathers and sons to want to spend some quality time together journeying in their faith.”

Stephen and Keaton spend quite a lot of time together as it is, and they believe the retreat can only enhance their relationship.

Keaton said he’s looking forward to spending “some time with my dad, you know, just the guys, and to see how other kids are with their dads.”

His father agrees.

“Without a doubt, Keaton and I have a strong relationship,” he said. “The retreat will help us build on that and learn from other fathers and sons about what makes their relationships strong.”

Stephen said part of what makes his relationship with Keaton solid is balancing being a father and a friend.

“There are different thoughts on this, with some people saying, ‘You’re a child’s parent, not his or her friend,’” he said. “I disagree. You can be both. A child, or any person, might be more willing to confide in or turn to a friend in times of trouble, and that’s a role I play as a parent. It also speaks to the quality of our relationship because there is built-in trust, love and respect between us.”

Keaton likes that approach, even when they don’t quite see eye to eye.

“We try to work out a compromise,” he said. “I know that he and my mom want the best for me.”

Anne Elacqua said that way of communicating is important and she hopes the retreat will be a chance for sons to see their fathers in a different light.

“I would hope they can see the depth of them as men and as believers,” she said. “I hope that the boys learn a way to communicate with their dads, and that time together in faith is just as fun and meaningful as going to a ball game.”

FATHER-SON RETREAT

What: An overnight retreat for fathers and sons (age 12 and older).

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, through 4 p.m. Saturday, March 9. Participants will attend 4:30 p.m. Mass at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament.

Where: Good News Foundation, 10475 Cosby Manor Road, North Utica.

Cost: $80 per father-son pair with $25 for an additional son. The fee includes a double-occupancy room that has a double and single bed plus its own bathroom. There are a few rooms with three single beds.

Amenities: Breakfast buffet (French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, home fries, fruit cocktail, toast, butter and jelly, coffee, tea, juice and condiments). Lunch (ham and turkey wraps, tossed salad, chips, olives and pickles, cookies, soda and water).

Information: Call Anne Elacqua at 724-3950 or 941-7447.