On Father's Day

Father’s Day. Time to reflect on my own performance as a father, and on the father that I had.

I tried to be the best father that I could to my three children. I am sure that most fathers say that–but, in my case, at least, I truly mean it. I hope that my children understand that, and forgive me of any short-comings, as they were growing up. Since all three are bright, loving, kind, gentle and very successful young adults out in the working world, I suppose that I didn’t do a bad job. But, even though I tried my best, I am certain that I could have done better. Maybe, that is a common feeling among most fathers, who truly love their children. I am very proud of them. I know that they know that, because I have told them that repeatedly on numerous occasions. I know that I don’t match up to my father, however, and all that he did for me.

I had the best father a guy could have. Full of Irish wit and humor (my mother once confided to me that she married him because he was so humorous), dad was a very, very successful businessman, and the consummate salesman. He had great respect among his colleagues and customers, both nationally and in Chicago’s business community. He was very devoted to my mother, and tenderly took great care of her during the last years of her life. (My mother died of cancer in 1987. My father died of his fourth heart attack on Valentine’s Day, 1994).

I learned much about business from my father. He taught me all about client service, and putting the customer’s interests before your own. He was so successful in the fine printing paper industry that his clients wouldn’t let him retire. He had served them through “thick and thin” for more than fifty-three years. They didn’t want to deal with anyone else….a problem for both my father and the company that employed him. God, what salesman can say today that he is so valued by his clients that they don’t want anyone else to handle their accounts? Remarkable!

I remember coming home from college after winter semester exams and devouring book after book in the big easy chair in our living room. I would literally read all night, with a fire going in the fireplace, and my father snoring on the couch. I would be wrapped up in a blanket to ward off the winter chill, and consume cup after cup of strong Irish tea, as I became lost in novels such as The Caine Mutiny, or in one of the gloriously leather bound and gold embossed very limited edition R.R. Donnelley “Christmas Books” that The Lakeside Press sent to their valued clients and friends. (My father was on their list for these books for many, many years. I remember blowing through Custer’s My Life on the Plains in about four hours. The Donnelley books were all stories about the Old West). At about 1:30 am or so, I would kiss my father’s bald forehead and say, “Time to brush your teeth and go to bed, Dad.” He would trundle up the stairs to bed, where my mother and sister had been asleep for hours. I would continue reading and stoking the fire, until the first sliver of dawn appeared in the dark winter sky.

In the few moments before my father died, I took the Rosary that I had been carrying and wrapped the beads around his hand, pressing the Crucifix at the end of the Rosary into the palm of his cold hand. I bent down, and kissed him, and looked into his eyes for the last time, whispering, “Thanks for everything, Dad. You did a great job. It’s up to me, now.”

That same Rosary now hangs on my bed post. In a few moments, I shall turn off the computer, turn out the lights, and go to bed. As I do every night, I shall take the Rosary and wrap the beads around my hand, pressing the Crucifix into my palm. I shall drift off to sleep, saying my nightly prayers for my family and friends. But, tonight I shall whisper softly once again, “Thanks for everything, Dad. You did a great job. It’s up to me, now.”

Happy Father’s Day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *