“What would Dad say?”
My sister, Diane, asks me that question at least 3-5 times a year. We decide he’d say something like, “He’ll figure it out.” “If she does that she might not like what happens.” “He won’t do that again.” “She’ll learn.” Or maybe, “That’s malarkey.” Dad rarely gave orders; he’d briefly explain possible consequences; then we faced them. It could be scary. He taught us to think and make decisions. We didn’t need to beg or argue. The choice was usually ours.
Growing up was easy. I don’t remember punishments or lectures. I don’t remember a lot of restrictions or pressure to perform. I never heard screaming or fighting. Dad was predictable. We ate dinner together then he’d hang out with Mom and/or the neighbors. I heard laughter most every day. Dad had lots of friends. He liked everyone. If there was someone he didn’t like he never told us. Neighbors, co-workers, high school buddies, garbage collectors, construction workers, doctors, CEOs, blacks, whites, immigrants, Catholics, Protestants, … they were all the same.
I was a 6th grader in 1965 when our family went to the riverboat in St. Louis. After the boat ride we went back to visit with people Mom and Dad met on the boat. All the parents visited on a big front porch and all the kids played in the yard. We were the only white kids. In 1968, when I was in 9th grade, there was a lot of whispering going on in our neighborhood. Lesbians moved in across the street. Dad was one of the few, or maybe the only one, who didn’t seem to notice. He treated them same as all other neighbors.
Growing up, I never missed mass on Sunday. If Mom and Dad had partied late Saturday night and were not feeling too chipper we’d head upstairs to the choir loft. We had rosaries, pictures of Jesus, the pope, John F. Kennedy, Jr. and a Blessed Mother statue in our home because that’s how cradle Catholics decorated. I’m grateful our parents introduced us to Jesus.
The best thing Dad did for us was love our Mom until the end. The end was challenging and not once did Dad complain. Mom and Dad were in heaven before age 65.
Today, I imagine he’s laughing and having a beer with Mom… exactly as it should be.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.