By Pat Nowak
On Father’s Day, I lovingly remember my dad. While he died almost 20 years ago, I still miss him. He was the one who was always there for me, providing the sage advice and wisdom that still guides me, years later.
One of ten children, he was a celebrated athlete at Woodward High School. He served in World War II, arriving home to marry my mother in February, 1946. The first of his four daughters was born 9 months later, in November.
My first memory is how he used to sing my sister and I to sleep with the songs “When Irish Eyes are Smiling and Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra (an Irish lullaby). The father of daughters; life was not easy for him. He could have been discouraged, not having a son to carry on his name. However, not once did we girls feel unappreciated – he was always our biggest champion. We accompanied him to softball games and bowling alleys where he proudly showed us off.
We had one bathroom in our home, always filled with rollers, clothes and all kinds of “girl things”, yet he never complained. He worked two jobs to make sure that my mother could buy all the frills. He was a feminist supporter long before it was trendy. He reminded us that we could be anything we wanted to be, rather than suggesting that we choose the safe route of nursing or teaching (the few options generally believed to be available for women back then).
He was the one who picked up all of my friends and delivered them home safely after many events. He was always the parent in charge when we got home late, giving us a wink and telling us not to tell our mother. But, oh how a strong word of reprimand from him could devastate us.
His needs were small: University of Notre Dame football, Cleveland Indians baseball, bowling two times a week, an occasional trip to Raceway Park and his favorite snack, always – peanuts. He walked four daughters down the aisle, paying dearly for our large weddings and he enjoyed his nine grandchildren – he finally got his boys, athletes all – excelling in football, soccer, tennis and wrestling.
He had a stroke at 69, it was devastating, but he learned how to manage. Slowly over the next ten years he lost his ability to walk well, his speech suffered and dementia developed. He died at 79.
My father left a legacy of gentleness… he taught us to be kind to everyone, not to hold grudges, and that we had choices in life. He treated everyone with warmth and concern and he had no enemies – and his Irish blue eyes always twinkled. His legacy lives on in his nine grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren. I celebrate his memory on Father’s Day.