Today is Father’s Day. I can say the simple phrase that many people can voice with me, “I miss my dad.” But this phrase packs a lot within and it really is not a simple phrase. Sort of like peeling an onion, there is so much more to the phrase.
Let me peel about my dad.
Outer layer, I miss my dad; he’s been in heaven since 2009. He worked hard at his job and he worked hard caring for his wife and kids. He loved my mom and that is the most important example he could share with all five of his children. Mom and dad bickered a lot but they were both perfectionists who would approach a process differently but always end up with the same outcome. I don’t think they ever went to bed angry at each other. Another valuable life lesson from both of them. Sadly, my first marriage was nothing like theirs and it fell apart quickly. Dad stood by me through that difficult time; never judging, but always supporting me.
The second layer, he loved his kids. He never belittled us. His conversations with us were always positive words and he was lovingly stern so we would turn out to be respectful adults. My siblings and I are high-functioning people. He was always goofing around with us too. He’d be in the back yard with my brothers and me as we played basketball. He had a famous “hook shot” which I picked up and made as my famous shot when I play basketball with my nephews. The hook shot is a lifesaver when we play a game of Horse.
The next layer includes the grandkids of which he was blessed with many thanks to one sister and one brother. He went by the name “Gramps” and it still sticks when we talk about him. He loved each grandchild and treated them so kindly. He used to slip bingo winnings into the hands of my niece and nephew when they lived with my parents for a short time. He put up a small basketball hoop on the side of the garage much lower than normal because my nephew used to play basketball like the big kids. And, he was really good for such a little guy. Of the great-grandkids he got to meet, he showered the exact same love, but his health was failing and he could not do as much with them. However, his love was evident. Always giving of himself.
In the next layer I remember a back-and-forth conversation with the neighbor kid, you know, the one where you say, “My dad could beat up your dad”. Thinking back to the other dad, yes, I bet my dad could have whooped him, but in truth, my dad was friends with everyone. I never saw him fight, nor did I hear him bad-mouth anyone. In fact, I was invited many times to run errands with him and in the course of each trip, he would talk with everyone he met as he seemed to know at least one person at each errand. I commented to him that everyone likes him. He assured me that was not true, and in my youth I did not comprehend that we cannot be liked by everyone, but he didn’t explain it. I had to learn that lesson on my own. Not everyone was his friend, but he treated everyone equally with kindness. What a beautiful life-lesson and I am thankful for the invite to go on errands.
The next layer, he was a devoted son. His dad was a watchmaker and when he needed parts, my dad would have to walk, after school, to get what he needed, bring it back home and head out to baseball practice or a game. My grandma would make dinner and leave him a plate and even though it was late he always cleaned up after himself. I clearly remember him jumping up from our dinner table to begin doing the dishes after a meal my mom cooked for the family. Dad was aware of what was important to others and a clean kitchen was important to my mom.
Getting deeper into the onion, my dad thought he felt called to be a Priest. Obviously that did not pan out as I am here today blogging about him. But his Catholic faith was important to him; my parents saw to it that we all attended Catholic school. Those years have planted Holy Spirit seeds in my heart and the love for the Trinity has sprouted within me.
He also was a very good baseball player; a pitcher actually. He tried out for the Detroit Tigers one time, but realized that his shoulder was not built for the majors. Instead he coached my brothers’ little league teams.
Can we talk aim for a second? That man had an eye for a straight line whether it was baseball, horseshoes, basketball, or those, heaven-forbid, pointy lawn jarts. He had an aim that kept him a winner much of the time.
At the core of my dad, he loved. He loved his country and it was evident when he quit school at the age of 17 to join the Navy during WWII. I regret not remembering much about his stories of his Navy days but I am fortunate to be the holder of his photo album from that period in his life. He was a handsome Sailor. At the conclusion of his church funeral, the Honor Guard performed a service of their own for their fallen comrade. They removed the flag that covered his casket, folded it and presented it to my mom. Someone snapped the most precious photo of that flag transfer and the look on my mom’s face was priceless. She was proud of my dad and was honored to hold his flag. The bugler began playing taps and that is where we all shed some heavy tears.
Truly cutting into an onion gets the eyes to water; thinking about my dad has the same effect. I miss my dad.