The Cubs won the World Series last fall, and I cried tears of joy, exhilaration and sadness. Yes, sadness. My dad and I were huge Cub fans, and although I was really happy to see them win, I was sad that he was no longer here to share the excitement with me.
My dad was my hero. He was a World War ll veteran, an ex-medic in the Army. He had the gentlest touch in the world. If I fell, cut or accidentally burned myself while baking, the only one who I allowed to take care of me was Dad. He could clean a wound, bandage a cut or place salve on a burn with a feather's touch.
Dad was the one who taught me how to throw a baseball (hard ball, not soft), hit a ball, catch a ball and field a ball. He taught me how to roller skate, ice skate, go sledding and throw a mean snowball. I’m afraid as the oldest child, and the only girl with all boy cousins, he taught me that if a boy could do those things, so could his daughter.
I loved wearing blue jeans and gym shoes, not frilly dresses my mom longed to see me wear. One year at Christmas my mom and grandmother decided to buy me a walking, talking doll. One look at it on Christmas morning and I burst into tears. Where was the bat, ball and catcher's mitt I had requested of Santa. Santa was obviously not listening, and that poor doll never came out of its box until my younger sister was born.
Dad taught me to ice skate in a pair of his old racing skates, and my joy in the winter was running home from school, grabbing those skates and cajoling my younger brother into going to the flooded park that freezing weather had turned into a great skating rink.
Dad also taught me how to fish. I had my own wooden pole. I never could put a worm on the hook, much to his dismay. As I got older, and femininity took over, my love for sports never waned. He and I never missed an opening day at Wrigley Field. Those were the days. You could go down to the front row and even talk to the players while they were practicing. And tradition dictated that you never left the ball park without eating at least one hot dog, a box of Cracker Jacks, an ice cream bar and peanuts.
Dad and I not only went to Cubs games; we even went to see the White Sox, the Black Hawks and the Bears. We watched the Bulls on TV. He had the patience to teach me the intricacies of each sport—from RBIs, to hat tricks, to first downs, to the zone. Those were the best of times.
And if you think it was only about sports, it wasn’t. My dad loved musical theater and fancied himself a crooner like Bing Crosby. He taught me ballroom dancing and to love old and new musicals and all the music from his and Mom’s time. I especially fell in love with Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman (to name a few) and many others of that wonderful big band music era.
Our favorite movie to watch together was “An Affair to Remember,” starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Cary Grant could say a million words without speaking . . . the story and feelings all in his eyes. And how we cried each time Cary discovered that Deborah Kerr had been crippled in a terrible accident the night they were to meet at the top of the Empire State Building.
Above all, Dad taught me that God was the one to turn to when times were tough—and there were many of those growing up in a family where hand-me-downs were the norm and sometimes not enough money for the groceries we needed. But there was always plenty of love of family. His most-quoted saying was: “Always treat others the way you would want to be treated, even if that other person is not very nice to you.” He practiced this each day of his life.
Such are the memories. My dad, my hero. My confidant, my mentor. The love of my mother’s life, and he hers. I miss them both every day, but am blessed that the Lord chose to place me in their lives, and I in theirs. Thanks for the memories, Dad!