It's been almost three years since I lost my dad. Like many in our area, losing any parent or loved one is tough stuff. Especially tough around holidays, even faux holidays such as dad's day. These 'Hallmark' holidays were developed to give retailers an excuse to hit us with more sales and the need to spend more money to feel complete.Dad 's day is the quiet, secondary holiday which we celebrate each June. When I think of dad, there's a lot to remember and much to describe. So I'll get to it. Hopefully someday my kids can say a few of these things about their old man.
What do I remember about my dad? A short list includes: having a catch in the backyard, dad joining in and playing stick ball with me and my friends; wrestling in the ocean down the shore; watching him get emotional with old war buddies; watching him dress up as Santa and try to surprise my brothers and me on Christmas Eve. And you can't mention my dad without mentioning food. Some of my most fond (and add funny and delicious) memories of dad revolve around food.
I remember when mom went into the hospital for some routine stuff. Mom and lots of folks from her generation tell me that way back hospitals kept you overnight for almost anything. Extended stays weren't uncommon. In today's drive-thru healthcare world that's not the case.
Dad had run of the household while mom sat recovering nicely at Philly's Nazareth Hospital.
One of his many duties was packing school lunches for yours truly. Have you ever seen those school bags with wheels? I needed one of those to carry my lunch. I told my father I was coming home at the end of the day, but no matter, I had lunch for several packed tightly. My lunch caught a lot of attention and I ended up sharing an abundance of food with teachers and fellow classmates at Our Lady of Ransom. Later in life dad would delight me again, only this time at his expense. Dad loved hot dogs. Never met one he didn't love. Once, while out with mom, dad ordered two foot-long loaded Texas-style wieners - all the trimmings piled high. He complained the entire drive home not because he ate too much, but because he felt there was something wrong with the hot dogs. The hot dogs were fine. Dad, endearing to us all, just got carried away. Far from a glutton and the furthest thing from a fat dad, the ultimate 'big kid' just couldn't resist. He was clenching his stomach from eating too much, while we all were grabbing our stomachs from a bout of hard laughter.
When dad cooked you came hungry and loved every bite. I found out after he passed that his culinary skills were developed in the Army, where he aced a course in several areas cooking before going off to fight in World War Two (he never told us about this award - we found out posthumously).
Dads like mine weren't afraid to show you their genuineness. Whether it meant downing two loaded hot dogs, dressing up as Santa, making a fool of himself at our parish carnival (in the dunk tank) or dancing the Mummer's Strut at his former place of employment, the no-longer Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, for a workers' picnic, dad was always making you smile. Dad was a proud graduate of the school of hard knocks, but what he lacked in academic credentials he more than made up for in work ethic, a gift for being a skilled laborer, killer cook, and a loveable and affable giant of a guy who no one could resist. Like many of his generation he didn't earn a college degree, but he made sure all three of his sons got theirs. Like many in his generation he didn't get the head start he gave his kids, but that's what made dads not unlike yours and mine so outstanding. Giving to others is like breathing for the rest of us. It just comes naturally.
Until the day Alzheimer's took him from us, and then until the day he died physically, dad was just someone that anchored our family.
I remember we asked dad what he wanted on many a Father's Day. He'd look at us above his glasses, smiling, laughing, saying 'You're kidding, right?!' Dad thought the whole idea of dad's day was an absolute joke. By that he meant that a fuss being made was laughable. He'd want the same thing every year, the same thing he wanted every day. Time with us around the dinner table or just hanging out. We'd still get him something and he'd enjoy it. He also was most pleased when he helped me and my brothers on hundreds of household projects around our homes.
The most important thing a father can give a child dad give to my brothers and me. The values of hard work, integrity, standing tall in the face of adversity, civic duty, and community service - these and many more were the things I learned from dad.
Am I the dad to my kids my dad was for me? The verdict is still out.
I think of dad always.
Dad's day is just one more occasion to mark what he taught me, how he made me laugh, and how he got me and my brothers to where we are today.
If you are one of the lucky people who still has a dad around, treat him well Sunday. Let him sleep in and make him the dinner of his choice. And to all the dads and Grand-dads out there, enjoy your Sunday.
David DiRenzo, of Milford Township, is a sales manager for a radio station based in Philadelphia. He can be reached on his Web site and blog at www.onemansview.net.