Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Father's Son

I used to have an uncle who would always boast that he was his father's son. Basically saying he was just like his father. At the time, I was a teenager with the same name as my father. So wanting to establish my own identity, it was the last phrase I would have wanted to tag on myself.

Well, two decades gives a lot of time to establish your identity and it also gives you perspective.

Today I am very proud to say that "I am my father's son!"

I am who I am today due in very large part to him and his character.

If you talked to his family and friends, they would say his two most prominent qualities are his loyalty and generosity. He always remembers his family, friends, and those who helped him become who he is today. He keeps in contact with friends and relatives who have moved away. He still attends reunions for the elementrary school he attended across the street from the projects. He still donates to schools and organizations that either he, my sister, or myself attended or participated in decades ago. When we were kids, we would often help out at the Little Brothers of the Poor. We would help pack holiday boxes with donated foodstuffs or travel door to door in the blighted areas of the city delivering those boxes. When I expressed interest in spending a year studying abroad, he pulled out all the plugs to make it possible. For that I am eternally grateful. It is easily the single event that determined the course for the rest of my life.

Another aspect of his character is that he is a planner. When we were children, he and my mother would take us on two or three week cross-country road trips. He had our itinerary written out on one big spreadsheet. It included every stop and sight with approximate times of arrivals and destinations. On an extended family level he has organized large reunions for members from Florida to Ontario to come and enjoy the big city. He has already started the ball rolling on a reunion for what would have been my grandmothers 100th birthday in 2008. On a professional level, he has been on the committee organizing a large conference of financial managers in Chicago. He was even the chairman (head organizer) for a year or two.

He has also been a great teacher. My sister and I were introduced to so many aspects of the world around us. Our family made regular visits to the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. Every Sunday night we would sit down to PBS and watch their lineup of cooking shows, This Old House, documentaries, Nova, even Monty Python and Faulty Towers. We often went to the River Trail Nature Center at all times during the year be it the summer, the maple festival in the spring, or the honey festival in the fall. Sometimes just for a walk in the woods as seen in last week's photo. Every couple years we would take road trips around the country. Yellowstone, Washington DC, San Fran, Acadia, Seattle, Boston, and even Knoxville. Each place with something to offer be it nature, history, or diversity. He also taught me sports. Everything from skill sports like bowling or darts to team sports like football and of course baseball. Techniques, strategy, and just plain enjoyment. We were given such a diverse base of knowledge and interests from which to start our lives.

But above all, he has been supportive. Through our schooling and into our adult lives. He was there to offer advice in a supportive way. Even as young adults you don't know what may be the best way to go about things or what possible solutions are available. He has always been there to offer a hand or share the knowledge he had acquired over the years. He has also been supportive regardless of his feelings. He did not agree with my running marathons, yet he was there each race day trying to cheer me on from as many points along the course as possible.

He has even been supportive for one of the worst things I could have done to him. Taking his only son and grandkid(s) 850 miles away. I know of all people, it hurt him the most, yet he didn't say a word. He was too concerned for my feelings and concerned that my wife would not feel any guilt moving to her hometown. Friends, family, and the city I love could all be visited time to time. But his frequent presense is a void that cannot be replaced by this new home. Lost are all the in-between times. The hanging out at home catching a game. An early weekend morning of golf. Or just having a beer in his favorite bar. On the positive side, when we see each other a few times a year, those times are that much more special.

So in many ways, I feel that I am my father's son, but at the same time I feel it is what I aspire to be.


Anonymous said...

My son.
Far better to say that you are your grandfathers grandson.

Your accomplishments, focus on family, integrity and drive to provide for your family are all the qualities I hoped you would have and I know he would as well.

It was his love and guidance that I tried to model my life as a father.

I could not ask of anything more than to say that YOU have become MY Father.

PS: It may not have been obvious, but I was always supportive of your cross country and marathon efforts and the energy and drive you needed to succeed. I was just concerned about the strain it was placing on you physically.

Anonymous said...

Frank, when did you become this eloquent writer?! I am constantly amazed by your writing talent, in particular your ability to communicate so intelligently, cohesively and interestingly. You sister does this too, and I think it must also be another quality you inherited from your dad.

I am sitting here at work, having just read this wonderful piece about your dad, and I had to wipe the tears away. This was a beautiful tribute to your father, and spot on. (Well done!) You made me smile with your tales of his wanderlust, which he got from Grandma.

What a great family! Although I knew that already, you put it far more eloquently than anyone could have hoped for. Thanks!

(Sorry I missed you and the family on your swing through Chicagoland. Hope to catch you next time!)