Sunday, June 15, 2014

To All Those Fathers Out There, Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all father’s out there. Today is a day to appreciate “dad” and give him a day of peace and quiet, relaxation, yard work, etc. – whatever he wants…as a father of three, every day is father’s day. This is not to say that we, as fathers, don’t get angry of our children…of course we do, we love them and want them to do well and not make the stupid mistakes we made.

As a father, I try a few simple things: to be 100% honest with my children, show them an uncompromised ethic where you never allow anyone coax you to do what you know is wrong, and to be respectful; respectful to one another, respectful to your elders, respectful to ladies, and to treat your mother as if she were a saint. You know why? Because she is a saint. She gave you life, gives you breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a band aid when you scrape your knee. Oh yeah, one more thing, to give whatever you do your best effort. Whether it’s sports, school, clubs, work, relationships – give it your best.

It’s not to say if I am good at what I do; I’ll leave that verdict to my children, wife, and friends.
Here is the way I break it down:

I was fortunate to grow up in a relatively large household, being the youngest of five. My parents were quite a bit older when I was born; my father was 48, my mother was 39.

Growing up, dad rarely had a catch with me, but that was OK. He attended every one of my little league games, would always give me the “go get ‘em Sport” as I was stepping to the plate. I was fortunate enough to play baseball until I was a freshman in college, when I was cut. That rejection didn’t bother me too much, as I didn’t care for the coach and I finally realized I wasn’t going to be the next Jerry Grote. My father was sorry I didn’t make the team, but he knew that with this door closing in my life, another would open.

My father was a very well educated man; he was valedictorian of his high school graduating class (1936) in Ohio, attend Ohio State University for two years, transferring to Michigan where he graduated with a  Bachelor’s degree and masters in forestry. He then went to Duke for his second masters in engineering. Education was very important to him…not to me.

Dad and I rarely saw eye-to-eye on school. I always worked hard at school, but test anxiety turned me into a C+ student instead of a B+ student. “Don’t worry Sport, hard work pays off…”
I was finally able to get my act together after my second year at a community college on Long Island, and transferred to the school of my desire, SUNY Cortland, because I was going to be the best Phys Ed coach ever…how little did I know.

Dad was proud that I finally got to the school I wanted to go to, and told me to work hard and take different classes to see what I might like. Phys Ed was nothing more than an unfulfilled dream. I found Radio and Television production, and it fit like a glove. My GPA, perpetually a 2.5 average started to climb.

At the end of my second year at Cortland (my fourth year in college where I should be getting ready to graduate, but was still a year away), a friend of mine came into my apartment and said she heard from my sister, and my father was in the hospital. I was living in a frat house, and our phone usually lay on the floor in the main hallway on the 2nd floor, and would invariably get kicked off the hook, rendering it useless. My sister couldn’t get through, so she had gotten the number of my friend from my girlfriend at the time.

My friend woke me up (it was a Saturday) and I quickly made a call to Huntington Hospital, where I was able to track down my father. I was told that he was having problems with his diabetes. After speaking with him on the phone, I realized that story was utter baloney.

I called my sister, and she was towing the family line that he had problems with his diabetes. I knew her story was an extension of my mother’s ill conceived “let’s protect them from the truth.”
With finals finished, I went back home, and I could see something wasn’t right in both my sister’s and mother’s faces. My three other siblings were on their own at this time, and not being there when I got home. It was then truth ultimately made its way into the conversation, and that dad had cancer….the BIG C.

I visited dad at the hospital over the next week or two, and I remember telling him once my grades came in that I had done the best to date…a 3.0 average. From his bed, he said he was proud of me and knew I could do it, and would do even better.

Dad came home on June 3rd, the day after my 22nd birthday, and passed on June 6th. With one more year left of school, I was contemplating not going back, but mom would have none of it. I did make a promise to my father that day in the hospital that for the first time I knew I was going to actually finish college. What did he say? “I know.” Once again, he knew more than me.
After taking 48 credits my final year, I did graduate; I also had received an award for the highest GPA in the Communications program (3.7) the first semester of that year. Graduating a year late, my faith permits me to know that dad was there at graduation, smiling down from Heaven, “I told you Sport.”. 

He has missed the greatest achievements of my life, meeting the wonderful lady I would marry and have three children with, missing our wedding, buying our house, promotions at work, this blog (what’s a blog?).

He’s missed none of it. He is always in my heart, as is mom who passed 4 years after dad.
Dad was a Yankee fan, but a fan who would always root for NY teams. He was thrilled for me when the Mets won n ’86.

I was thrilled for him when the Giants won their four Super Bowls (three of which he didn’t see).
My children never met their grandfather, a man that I always respected, and respect more with each passing day. There is not a person I have ever met that I have more respect for.

This is a day to remember our father’s, alive or not. This post is not meant to be melancholy; although I lost both parents early in my life, I was fortunate to have had two tremendous parents that taught me the meaning of respect. That is what I want to be able to pass on to my 18, 16, and 11 year old children.

Last week marked the 26 anniversary of my father’s death. Has it been that long?

Still less time since the Mets last won a World Series.

Happy Father’s Day dad, and Happy Father’s Day to all father’s out there.

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