Dad taught me so much about life, more so as an adult. We would have philosophical conversations. He was a wise, old soul. I think that came from having been born to parents who were in their mid-forties. He had to be a grown-up at a very young age because his parents were really done parenting and not planning on having another child. My grandfather worked on the railroad so dads early years from 5 on were pretty much spent on a train and riding it to Duluth and back everyday. No, not with my grandfather, dad rode the train by himself. I think this prepared him to adapt to any situation and make friends wherever he went. He always spoke of how lonely he was as a young child and carried this pain to the time of his death.
Dad had a brother who was 15 years older and by the time dad was six, his brother was off to war in Europe. Even though dad was the younger brother, he always looked out for my uncle, they were very protective of each other.
Like many men raising families in the 60’s and 70’s, pretty much the focus of his day to day existence was work. My dad had an incredible work ethic and fortunately it was a trait he passed on to me. Dad worked hard as a purchasing agent at 3M and retired after 35 years of service. He was proud of his years of service as well as perfect attendance. Yes, 35 years of service and he never once called in sick.
Dad had many friends who loved him for his great sense of humor and gregarious personality. He was kind and generous to those he cared about. He could be the life of the party and could light up a room with his presence. Dad knew how to read a crowd and act accordingly.
He was a great athlete, he played football and baseball and formed the St. Paul Ski Jumping Club way back in the day. I still have his ski’s proudly displayed in my sunroom. He coached amateur baseball for many years, he was a football and basketball referee and a baseball umpire. Dad loved sports and even found time to golf and celebrated a hole-in-one a couple of times. Ahhh, the luck of the Irish!
My fondest memories of dad were the weekends we spent in the kitchen together. Planning a meal, picking up groceries and then cooking. It wasn’t even about what we cooked, it was about the time together talking. One of the last meals we prepared together was a turkey on the Weber Grill. It was a big backyard BBQ at my home with all his cousins. Every time I checked the turkey the vents had been closed on the grill. I couldn’t figure it out. Then he saw me by the grill and he said “someone keeps opening the vents and letting the heat out so I keep closing them”. I practically tinkled my panties laughing and reminded him the vents needed to stay open and that he’s killing the coals by closing them. “Shit, Lynn, that’s right”. It was a story we shared many times with fondness. Too many minutes on the surgical table without a heartbeat had taken a toll on his memory. But he had nine lives and lived every one of them to the fullest. Three heart attacks, an angioplasty and triple bypass surgery; dad was a champ for all he went through. He was my hero. He gave up near the end, after a 10 year battle with heart disease and a badly damaged heart. Dad died at the age of 66.
It wasn’t all roses and champagne, dad had his demon’s. At the time of his death he celebrated 9 years sobriety and he was very proud of this accomplishment. He never once fell off the wagon and considering he quit smoking at the same time, it was quite a remarkable feat. In his years as a recovering alcoholic he mentored others with the same struggles. When I go back to my hometown I always seem to run into someone that dad sponsored in AA. I’m so proud of him when I hear of these stories.
I make a special point of visiting his niche at the cemetery several times a year. I find comfort being close to him there. I think of him everyday and am grateful for the lessons he taught me; how he sacrificed himself to provide for his family, his patience as a grandfather, his determination to succeed in all he did and how he was always trying to be an even better dad as the years went on, regardless of his past mistakes. He set an example by showing me that a person is never to old to change, improve, learn or forgive. Dad talked the talk and walked the walk.
Carpe Diem, dad, Happy Father’s Day!