27 Great Memories With My Dad…
The LORD blessed me to spend more quality & quantity time with my 94 year old Dad before he went to heaven recently, and it caused me to reflect on some of the great memories I’ve had with him over the last thirty-two years:
1. When I was getting ready for high school in the morning, my Dad would often slide a plate under the door with two or three pieces of homemade cinnamon toast. An UNBELIEVABLE start to the day!
2. When my Dad & I would walk our bichon frise Whitney, Dad would give doggie treats to any other dog out as well (he kept them in his pockets all the time). His reputation quickly spread amongst the neighborhood canines, and he would often attract a crowd of puppies on our walks!
3. When my Dad picked me up from the Glenview Public Library after school in grades 6-8, he would honk his car horn in the same pattern: dun, du du dun dun, dun dun. Even when I saw him approaching and was walking out to his car ten feet away, he would honk like this with a little grin on his face.
4. My Dad almost never said swear words, and he rarely got angry. But nearly every time he watched a Cubs baseball game, he does both! (and he ALWAYS thinks the current Cubs manager is doing a terrible job).
5. My Dad drove his car a lot when I was growing up (20k miles per year; our family trucking business was on the near south side of Chicago). And so he always had a small plastic bag wrapped around the gear shifter of his van (and it was usually spilling over with wrappers, papers, and other trash!).
6. Growing up, there were two foods that my Dad made literally EVERY SINGLE DAY: popcorn and bacon. Totally serious. (Must be the secret to activating God’s gift of health and longevity to him!)
7. Maybe it’s because of his age (my Dad was 62 when I was born), but he LOVES to go to the grocery store! On Saturdays we had “brunch” by filling up on the samples the store gave out. And a trip to Jewel or Cub Foods (Dad almost never went to Dominick’s because they were “too expensive”) would usually last 90 minutes or more because he would go up and down each aisle browsing for sales & new foods. I still enjoy this today…
8. My Dad taught me how to golf, and we played together many summer nights at Mission Hills Country Club in Northbrook (often by ourselves). He was always patient with me–and I was always terribly hot-tempered and unsatisfied with my shot. I would have sucked the joy out of the game with a lesser man…
9. My Dad played in a bowling league at River Grove Bowl in the 80s. I patrolled the smoky lanes on Friday nights as hundreds of men bowled, laughed, and consumed prodigious amounts of “drinks.” Half the time I watched the bowling and the other half I hung around the vending machine/claw arcade game. I was 10 & easily the only person under 30. Ahhh, childhood…
10. From December ‘89 ‘til April ‘95, my Dad and I visited Las Vegas 6x (to the sheer horror of my Mom) at the Excalibur, Luxor, & Treasure Island hotels. During the day we would play golf/tennis for hours (pretty good for a man in his 70s), and at night I would play alone in each casino’s arcade for hours at a time while Dad studied the horse racing and made his bets. I could make 5 bucks stretch back then (and was proud of it, reveling in my Dad’s amazement when he’d be surprised to find me with money left after 3 hours!). I can’t believe I wasn’t kidnapped (God’s love & mercy are truly with us, even when we don’t believe in/make time for Him)!
11. My Dad was always at every one of my sporting events (so was my Mom), whether it was soccer, baseball, basketball, or cross-country (often as the coach!). I remember always looking for him and my Mom whenever I played a game. It always pumped me up so much to see them in the stands.
12. Even though it embarrassed me then, I’m warmed by it now: my Dad bought a microwave each year for my homeroom so that students could bring soup for lunch and heat it up. Though soup isn’t exactly high on a 4th graders’ lunch wish list, this endeared him to my teachers & classmates.
13. I went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help school in Glenview for grades K-8, and each year my Dad would give out silver rosary rings to my class. I don’t think my friends knew what to do with them, but they loved getting them as presents (some thought they were brass knuckles for fighting!).
14. My Dad kept our pantry STOCKED with tasty but unhealthy snacks. We had a great reputation: my friends loved coming over for any sweet candy or salty snack you could ever want. The pantry had five shelves, was 8 feet high by 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep; a treasure chest of goodies! & Don’t get me started on the 25-30 cereal boxes (not exaggerating) on the top shelf at any given time (I ate a box per day in high school). YUM!
15. Much to my adolescent horror, my Dad insisted on sneaking popcorn into movie theaters in plastic sandwich baggies that didn’t even have “ziplocks” on them (you folded the flap on one side into the other side once it was filled). But not to save money, mind you. It was because he liked his own ‘corn better than the theaters’!
16. Back to bacon, my Dad and I would often go to Walker Brother’s Pancake House in Glenview on Saturday mornings, and he would always order his bacon “flat and crisp.” BACON!
17. I enjoyed naps when I was an adolescent (and still do today as an adult), and I often remember my Dad gently draping our brown lion blanket over me as I was falling asleep. I pretended I was asleep, but I was always comforted by him “tucking me in” like that. I still take naps under that same lion blanket today.
18. My Dad wore knee-high dress socks to work under his suit pants, and I remember walking by him almost every morning as he sat down in the chair in his closet putting on his socks, pouring baby powder in his dress shoes, and then using his shoe horn to get his shoes on. I can still smell the baby powder. Wow…
19. My Dad LOVES McDonald’s coffee. He says it’s because of the taste, but I suspect it also has to do with their “senior discount.” Until I was 16, I never heard anyone order coffee without saying, “Senior decaf coffee with two creams.” Even now at Starbuck’s, I have to stop myself from saying that to the barista!
20. Though definitely unpleasant at the time, my Dad used to blow his nose loudly at the dinner table (and then tuck his gooey handkerchief back into his pocket). Yuck! (but still a great memory!)
21. My Dad has always set a great example by bravely showing his emotional side. He cries every Christmas at the singing of “Silent Night” at church. That song really touches him.
22. My Dad got choked up the day I moved out at age 22 with my wife Sarah & newborn baby Sabrina (into Pine Hill Apartments in Wheeling). Once our stuff had been brought in and our moving friends had left, it was just my Dad and I near the kitchen. We had a profound moment there: the end of an era. I had never lived anywhere else other than with him (even in college I commuted). I’ll never forget that moment.
23. My Dad was talkative and friendly with anyone he met, esp. the folks who worked at the grocery store deli. You’d think they were long lost friends. Maybe Dad was subconsciously living by the maxim that, of all the people in the world, you should never mess with your surgeon or the people who handle your food!
24. My Dad had many interesting phrases that he used, like “ya darn tootin'” (when he agreed with you) and “you’re full of piss & vinegar” (when I was especially energetic at home). But my favorite is when he’d look at me, smile, shake his head and say, “You’re SOMETHIN’ ELSE!” I’m still “somethin’ else”—just ask my wife and kids!
25. Many people who saw us together would say, “Oh how sweet. Is that your Grandpa?” I would proudly reply, “Nope! That’s my Dad!” Other times I would tell people that “my Dad was born during World War I!” They would pat my head and say, “Don’t you mean WWII?” I would then give them a look like, “I know I’m young, but I know my history—Dad was born before the armistice ending THE WAR was signed in France in 1918.” Boo-yah!
26. My Dad taught me the importance of taking care of those who work with/for you. Regarding the dock workers at our family business (the men who loaded/unloaded 53 foot trailers in the summer’s heat and winter’s cold), Dad would make sure they had an orange cooler of cold Gatorade each day in the middle of the dock (instead of them walking the 300 foot long dock each time they wanted water). I try to follow my Dad’s example every day.
27. & The best memory of all: how God has allowed my Dad to be at my wedding and to meet/know all 5 of his grandkids. The LORD knows how to give good gifts to His children, & my Dad has been one of the best gifts of all!
May He bless us with many more memories in heaven forever…