Laugh Lines And Heartstrings

My dad never got to see Tiger Woods hit his prime. He really would like to have seen that. He so respected young men who accomplished things, who set their minds to a task and persevered. He didn’t see the Browns leave town and then come back a few years later. That was probably a good thing, as he never cared much for the team’s ownership. The Cavaliers’ “King James” phenomenon also came after my dad’s departure, and he would really have enjoyed that. He always felt Cleveland had the fan base to support any winning team and that it was an injustice to deny that to the people of this area. Many of my life lessons were learned through his references to sports–a habit I find I have developed as well.

Simple, Noble Qualities

E-mail and cell phones were not as advanced as they are now, and my father would have considered it silly and vain for anyone to think he was so indispensable as to need 24-hour access through a phone on their hip. The fear and loathing over the potential Y2K disaster would not have missed his radar, and he’d have cited it later as an example of how people panic for no reason. I recall lying in front of the television as a child and hearing him snort from his easy chair when the executives of the major oil companies explained the gasoline crisis of the 1970s. “That’s a lie,” he stewed under his breath. He was a man of great emotion, but in complete control of the same.

When the Plain Dealer cost ten cents, he took a copy off a stack outside the local donut shop every morning before the proprietor arrived, and always left a dime on top of the stack. One Saturday when we actually went in for coffee, I told the owner I was sitting with the guy who left a dime every morning. The owner had always wanted to know who that honest person was, and called the staff out to meet the “dime guy.”

Foundation In Family

My dad treated his parents as if they were made of gold, and did the same for his wife’s parents who thought of him always as a son. He was married to his in-law’s only daughter for 42 years until his untimely passing 13 years ago last October. He had two daughters, and I was fortunate to be his only son. He was a humble and gentlemanly sort, his wants were modest, and his world was limited by his hometown in Pennsylvania and the town in which he had gone to college, married, and eventually raised his family. Every other place was just someone else’s hometown.

He bought us one of the first color televisions on the block, and bought mom a “hi-fi stereo” with headphones at a time when no one had ever seen those. He played his Sinatra albums with those monstrosities over his ears and sang along, hitting notes that made the dog go running into the other room.

Though not gifted in the creative-arts department, he loved music, especially the music his wife made with her baby grand piano, that took up a quarter of the living room. At night when she played, he sat in his easy chair and listened, sang a few bars here and there, and reveled in her talents. When she played midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and conducted a large adult choir and a children’s choir, and performed on piano, organ and harpsichord, he slipped in the back door just before the music started, caught her eye so she knew he was there, and then disappeared with us kids into the crowd, wanting her to have her full moment without the worries of children and him. He always gave others their due.

He doted on his daughters and made life fairly challenging for their potential boyfriends. While he never had a dog himself, he thought it right for me to have one. On the rare occasion that he stopped to pet that old fellow, Scruffy’s tail would pound against the cabinets and stove until it sounded as if it would break.

Strong And True

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