November 30, 2009

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First of all, my father would apologize for inconveniencing you all and taking you away from your routine. But he’d also be grateful. And he’d do whatever he could to make you comfortable.

Before I speak about my father, I want to recognize my mother. She’s the other half of this equation. The girl who won his heart. The woman who created the home which allowed him refuge and relaxation. The love of his life. He had many endearing names for her. Trish. Palty. High Command. She was his inspiration. She remains ours as well.

With someone like my father, it’s an easy task to look back across his 78 plus years and appreciate his numerous achievements, admirable characteristics and special talents.

He spent nearly four decades with the Town of Manchester fire department as a firefighter, EMT and union leader. He understood mortality as it was part of livelihood.

He was married to my mother for 52 years.

He was the father to four children who have all successfully made their way into the world but always had his caring support.

He was a Navy veteran and a patriotic and involved citizen.

He loved a good party and a tasty meal. He relished these properly.

He was a humorist and an unparalleled punster. I sometimes think he kept the art of the pun alive all by himself.

He was a gifted artist. His oil paintings fill our homes. He would paint anything that didn’t move or washed up on the shores we strolled down. We also have homes filled with brightly painted rocks and driftwood. He colored our world.

He was a cartoonist for the local newspapers and hunting magazines. He hand drew his Christmas card every year for decades.

He was a humorous writer and teller of many hunting and fishing tales.

He was a marksman with a pistol and won a roomful of trophies for expert trap shooting.

As admirable as these achievements and talents are, I wanted to mention one characteristic that’s maybe a bit more subtle. His gift of compassion.

It doesn’t matter what talents you have; it matters how you put these talents to use. And this is where he excelled. He utilized his talents not for his personal gain or glory but for the benefit of others.

When I was in elementary school, I would usually bring a bagged lunch. When I pulled out my PB&J, I would find, on the waxed paper wrapping, a drawing made by my father. Typically a cartoon of my father smiling and waving at me. It made me smile and feel safe.

On Sunday mornings, he would take us to the local bakery to buy fresh Italian bread, pastries or donuts. We would then go to the home of his recently widowed cousin and aunt to bring them a sweet care package. I’m sure it made them smile and feel comforted.

When the neighborhood kids drove their sleds or bikes off the paths and into trees, the parents would call my father and he’d run out the door to aid them. Like with his own children, he’d stop the bleeding and draw an orange Mercurochrome heart on the scrape. It made them smile and it comforted their parents.

When my grandparents were in Florida from Winter to Spring, my father would send them a card every day. Not occasionally. Not most days. Every day. To make them smile and feel comforted when far from home.

When I was a homesick kid going through basic training, he accepted countless collect calls to reassure me and bolster my spirits when I was far from home.

One firefighter recently told the story of the first time he met my father. He saw a man kneeling in the middle of the street. That man was my father. He was cradling a child that had been struck by a car. He did this without regard for his personal safety. He did this to provide comfort and assistance to another. He did this caring ‘work’ for nearly 40 years.

Over the years, he always used his talents and his compassion to care for others. There are countless tales where my father sent cheerful, cartoon covered cards to ailing relatives, friends and their children. He wouldn’t send just a single card but many as necessary to aid them in their fight to be well. He used his abilities to help in any way that he could. He was a strong and determined man with a gentle, caring soul.

I absolutely believe that those that we love and respect live on inside us.

He retired in 1997. This was the same year my daughter was born. Over the past 12 and a half years, my father and my daughter spent uncountable hours together. During those precious times, he passed along his character and his talents. In return, she gave him great joy and a million smiles. My daughter is a beautiful young lady with an amazing mix of wonderful qualities and talents. Like many of us that had the pleasure of her grandfather’s company, she now possesses a number of her grandfather’s admirable traits. This makes me smile and gives me great comfort.

On Thanksgiving evening, we were in the midst of post-dinner clean-up. My father called me into the family room to get my opinion on a play in the football game. We agreed that the refs were clearly blind. My mother then called me back into the kitchen where we exchanged some kidding comments. She concluded by saying, ‘You sound just like your father.’ It was meant as a gentle poke and it would have been when I was a surly teenage. But many years have passed and I’m a bit smarter now. When my mother said, ‘You sound just like your father’ it felt like the biggest compliment possible. I couldn’t help but smile.

He actively worked to make the world a better place. He used his time, his character and his talents to demonstrate compassion and to make people smile. This is one of the many lessons that will stay with me for all my days.

We loved him with all our hearts and we already miss him dearly. Thank you Dad. Thank you for everything.

Former blogger, current CrossFit gym owner. Former paratrooper, marathoner, youth sports coach and jujitsu black belt. Hoping to retire soon to write full-time.

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